Nausea

I.

Theory is a hard sell because it offers very thin odds for wholesale validation. This is the strategy consultant’s dilemma: at least in principle, he has to reconcile taking the client’s side (listening to his pain) with offering something that amounts to substantive change he doesn’t want. A strategy product where companies’s borked “key principal indicators” are replaced for “axiological scenario systems” can be devised with scarcely more technique than we already have, but how do you sell the idea of value system surgery to pragmatic purseholders with scarce time for philosophical books? It’s not that the theoretician is coming in to take away his power — it’s your axiologies, not mine — but that as the scenario grows more abstract, the opportunity for fine ad hoc tuning that is supposedly the role of the High Priests of corporate HQ starts to vanish. They either stay within the story or become obscurely extradiegetic.

Likewise, even as the ongoing political situation in Brazil appears to align itself with our ongoing belief that the core scenario at hand is the constitutional crisis and the hi-Z status of the Revolutionary Guard, it’s very hard to move beyond “concrete policy issues can’t be discussed at this level of abstraction” — the phrase will show up on my phone’s autocorrect any time soon. What is the appropriate level of abstraction then?

A dizzyingly high one.

People who have continued to study mathematics past the point where it seemed practical have had this experience, especially when guided by professors and mentors: making chalk marks on a blackboard, the master alternates between setting up rigorous formulae that can only be understood after serious practice, and gesturing over the blank spaces, chaining tiny geometrical allusions meant to convey that this makes sense, you can imagine uniformly continuous spaces of functions as… you know this in your hearts to be true. It’s at this point of dizziness that the mind opens up for understanding and you start running the risk of being struck by truth-rain.

Theory in the sense we have been developing has, evidently, reached nowhere this level of confusion. It’s been taking place, after all, over the course of a few months and in response to an emergency; and it’s increasingly taking the form of a kind of ethereal clockwork that at times of kairos will crash and deform against the roughness of human affairs.

Cueing in our Zizek voice sample: in a perverse way the symptom of general axiology is a widespread sense of confusion. It’s true, we’ve said it numerous times, in general axiology the sexism you detest in pedagogical scenarios will have been redefined to something you like. Because general axiology contains every and each smaller axiology, it will (as it crashes with the Earth) have had an effect of convergence. It will deagonize human experiences. But that  has to be preceded by a tempo-click of utmost disorientation, the ultimate tension before the ultimate release that is implied by the basic premises of theory.

At any juncture the important question is therefore — am I sufficiently confused?

II.

In the typical setting, economics is a two-piston engine comprised of two axiologies we will call M and U. Axiology M is as theory of the value of costly things. Along with all the material goods this includes human effort, sinew and misery; in effect, all affairs on which the bare partial order induced by the prevailing system of exchange (even in communism things had prices and wages) is defined. Axiology U comprises the generalized “field”(not a technical term) of human subjectivity (but remember always that subjectivity is a partial (curried) application of interfacticity-towards-X) in its relation with all material and most immaterial things.

Axiology U is strictly larger than axiology M: the stuff of economic life is valuing the means of obtaining type-M values; when e.g. factories obtain M-dominant ways of achieving U-outcomes, “productivity” is said to have increased. The typical setting of economics is a two-piston engine because it sees this interplay as the composition of two counterfactual movements. In the first, U-outcomes are considered frozen and universal, and the M-improvement (the reduction in costs for a fixed industrial output) taken in isolation. In the second, M-outcomes are universalized and U-improvements (the increase in output for fixed costs) are foregrounded.  Economists see this decomposition of actual motion in “ceteris paribus” (their technical term) motions as an act of theory. They need it because U is mostly invisible to humans (which industrial outcomes are more valuable?). Normative discourse is not eliminated by this procedure, but many popular issues are revealed to be bogus and others crucial (while indiscernible to humans) can be seen in black and white stark pencil formulae.

What’s interesting here is that each “pause button” (ceteris paribus) is a full counterfactual with all the logical issues involved in modal reasoning, but in concert they add to something fully observable in axiologies M and downwards. Each of these motions is a click (a step in tempo) but they cancel each other a little. In effect an adjustment process goes on — economists are often, but not always, silent on the temporality of this process — across a self-crossing of the time of kyklos (and here the connection with economic and political cycles is complete). Not physical time, mr. Susskind, big fan of your lectures here, not chronos, tempo, the time of praxis.

Life pro tip: if you find yourself at a club trying to pick up an attractive woman (men are much easier to pluck) — remember this stuff. Tempo folded over itself.

III.

 

I’m well aware that “truth-rain”, “chrematistics” and “switcharoo” are some goofy words, but what to make of “acceleration”? What, in mr. Susskind-time or in praxis or…? How do we even give teleology an index of dimensionality, let alone d=1? A pendulum in 3D space has a phase space of dimension 2 because that’s what the differential equations bring out. A pendulum, a pebble hanging from a string.

There’s more: teleology since Aristotle (maybe even before) has always conflated goals with limit points. Thereafter we should think that every teleology is subsumed by a “teleaxiology” that induces an orientation on the general “field” (tantalizing, but not technical term) of reality. If there was such a monster it would be trivially identified with general axiology. But this, in my evaluation, is both too poor (too generic) to be valuable and too big (too general) to take at face value.  Such teleological claims are pure meaningful gestures at a level of abstraction that cannot but chop off the legs of guests that are too tall.

We must instead consider the scenario of teleology as an open (topological sensu strictu) space in all directions. This open, horizontal, unmarked field on which eventual-becomings (something like “particular teleologies”, if the word would admit plural form; eventual-limit sequences of events) run free like wild horses. Either a teleaxiology exists and it reveals itself eventually as general axiology, or it does not. But at the moment (this moment) of such a bracketing operation, the central question is: can we postpone implementation? Can we not decide what happens here?

This question must be asked because that’s work of theurgy to be done: genericization past the point of comfort. It depends on a basic virtue that was once called Socratic but may come to be renamed after Jair: the renunciation of wisdom and the surrender to the soteriology of a Truth that is not held by Man but covers him like the rain. It depends also on a great deal of book-keeping (much of linear algebra holds in spaces of infinite dimension but you have to re-check what the proofs were assuming) to perform the switcharoo at the point of ultimate confusion. We may be significantly botching this book-keeping in the current iteration, but as we move outwards each previous quavering misstep will reveal itself either as a fully void formula or point to its quability conditions from where the real book-keeping has to take place.

And if it does not, maybe there are other horses that are adventurous too.

The magic leap

I. 

The presentation of a story is made of two components: the elements of presentation and the element of the story itself. Rigorously speaking, this can easily become a recursive formula (the presentation of the presentation…. of the presentation of the story), and experimental storytellers have long been trying variations of this scheme. Still, in the most common cases, the story is most often (structurally) large enough that it constrains the span of the presentation.

In what’s known as the Classical Narrative film, the final presentation of this large-enough story is given the name of diegesis. Film is the interesting case because it brings a quantitative explosion of non (or rather extra)-diegetic storytelling tools; whereas in previous forms out-of-story storytelling elements  were inextricable from the fact of the storyteller (Proust and Kafka swallowed by their work), in Classical Narrative film the storyteller was pulverized.

In other words: diegesis replaces the storyteller in favor of the conditions of storytelling; at the very least, this vibes with our current strategy of replacing truth for ambient condition of truth, banal actions with quability conditions, social praxis and legitimacy with axiologies, seduction itself with scenarios of ecstasy. But there’s an additional component to the scenario of diegesis that interests me: the conditions of storytelling are heavily technical. And you know how giddy we are in the presence of any conceptual breakthrough bearing a technical implementation.

There are rules for for disappearance encompass a fine control of tempo and duration; depth-of-field and focal length dynamics; scene geometry,  rules for bringing sound in and out of diegesis. It would be an impressive achievement of mankind if, like computing, these rules had gradually evolved throughout maybe two to four decades. But it’s weirder than that: almost everything of this disappearance technology comes up, as if whispered by aliens, at once — the era of silly pie-in-the-face shorts of uneven duration suddenly stops with a single  (extremely racist) generations-spannning three-hour epic about the Ku Klux Klan — which interrupts the age of trivial shorts and  introduces in one master brush stroke the entire language of Classical Narrative film. Poet James McAgee said – “To watch [t]his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel…and to realize that this is all the work of one man.”

This almost poses a trolley problem — hey, the KKK has caused untold death and harm, but would you rather not have had the miracle of diegesis?

II. 

It’s hard not to spend an entire essay detailing the sheer discontinuity — the magic leap in technical power gifted to the world by the Klan through the artistic genius of D.W. Griffith. It’s also practically unnecessary, since otherwise nonwrongthinking film theorists and critics have had no choice other than lionize it and explain it in their classes. Suitably depersonalized: there has been no conflict between the small-axiology-of-antiracism-contained-within-the-large-axiology-of-common-mores (from now on we might just say “small axiology” and assume a sufficiently large axiology around it) and the small axiology of aesthetics — possibly a number of parallel aesthetics, one of rapture and sublime, another of technical astonishment, etc.

Indeed in some cases this conflict of axiologies is set up in interestingly nonconflicting ways — consider the critical trope that Griffith created diegesis in order to give truth-content to his racist lies. We do not discuss such horrible words as “lies” (it’s either within or without the truth-rain “which shall save you”) but can pivot that trope to focus on the disappearing storyteller. This is the Zizekian picture of ideology: the racism inherent in wanting to tell that story is dissolved in a technology of non-authorship. Therefore a hundred years later a bank heist set in an odd version of the 1930s where blacks have been erased  can be made more exciting by music that is explicitly the historical complaint of slavery. Note the explosion of the frame — in this case it’s diegesis that resignifies an extradiegetic tool; the beast has swallowed its own “frame”.

III. 

Diegesis may have the potential of becoming a hearty, nutritional version of what Scott Adams calls the persuasion filter. From what I’ve been able to gather (for a cartoonist Adams is very wordy and roundaboutly and who says this is someone who reads Derrida on his lunch breaks), the persuasion filter is an outlook on the world that foregrounds the fact that no one really thinks all the time and most people very rarely do so; from that fact, it should follow that reality is best understood if we understand that people don’t understand reality. (The author, of course, flatters his readers as the select few that do…)

We need, of course, to begin by effacing the idea that there’s people and the twin possibilities of rationality and irrationality to arrive at something sufficiently generic and able to flow through the various layers of theory to absorb it. But on its own, diegesis eliminates some of the cowlickier ideas of the persuasion filter: it is the effect of a demiurgic technology that vaporizes the demiurge; it needs no “master persuader” (more on that soon). More subtly, it does away with the dependence on truth-as-nonfalsehood that underlies the idea of “truth as one possible narrative” — diegesis is ultimately the effect of presenting of a scenario, which can be anything from the metaphysical characterization of capital as an alien invader to a 10-second loop of beautiful college-aged girls making out.

But note the effect — the magic of movies is not that a frame exists and influences the content, is that the frame has vanished and what you see is what you get. This is how we’re able to take the scenarios of Blackbeard or our so-oft-mentioned faux-lesbians without worrying for their frame — sure, maybe it’s sexist, in general axiology sexism will have been redefined for something that you want.

Most important of all: it introduces into our vocabulary the question — is this diegetic? 

IV. 

One problem about writing stories about Jair is that it’s very difficult to acquire a theory-of-mind about him. Being lifelong public figures, each previous president of Brazil (possibly excluding goofball Jânio Quadros) have had clear public personas on which they had to campaign — even during the military intervention of the 60s and 70s. But as we’ve said before and will carry on repeating, what is most disconcerting about Bolsonaro is his embrace of the very idea of truth-rain. By the story local media increasingly fails to tell convincingly, Bolsonaro is erratic, moody, changes his tune every time; I have seen him on TV reasoning like a trained philosopher and stuttering like a 20-year old dummy. A reasonable question that the local media has yet to pose would be — is this man on drugs?

There’s an alternate hypothesis — one that appears to have a far greater explanatory power and simultaneously much, much deeper implications for the scenario of Brazilian crisis and for theory as a whole: maybe Jair Bolsonaro is extra-diegetic. Maybe he’s not of the story; maybe he’s part of the dizzying array of lenses and sound effects and camera movements that tell the story of the great Brazilian meltdown.

The sticking point of Scott Adams’s “persuasion filter” theory is the figure of the Master Persuader. In his book, this role is played by Donald Trump, but it may as well have been Osho: through a combination of a heightened intuition about other people’s cognitive biases and incessant, shameless A/B testing (and maybe more, I didn’t finish the book), the Master Persuader captures the frame and proceeds to “urinate on the press corps. from a great altitude“.

But the novelty of this is not that the Master Persuader has destabilized a dominant frame like a critical theorist and brought on the onset of postmodernism — this is a distraction, each time an element of diegesis “breaks the fourth wall”, the self-awareness is reabsorbed into the diegesis. To function, Adams’s Master Persuader would have to be nondiegetic, i.e. almost invisible. And of course, what enables diegesis is a pulverized array of nondiegetic technologies that fully displace the Master.

V. 

What does it mean “to be nondiegetic”? Osho is close to a paradigmatic case. Physically absent most of the time, he’s best understood not by his own movements (despite his brush with la Migra in the 80s) but by the brand-name hysteria. It’s not important whether he was could confabulated into existence or manipulated by his secretaries or men behind the curtain: Osho is but the point of capiton (the crochet “button”) that aligns all the the pulverized technologies that comprise the Osho movement. This is how he remains a notably prolific author long after his body was incinerated in his ashram, his flesh commemorated by a plaque stating that he was/is “OSHO – NEVER BORN. NEVER DIED.”

For American authorities who might wanted him for tax evasion might look at a biological man with persuasion powers who exploits… but oh my god, who even cares. Likewise in the scenario of the faux lesbians, feministologists may argue that the dudes who stare in delight are somehow agents of a social structure that push the girls into this, but none of this matters, not in light of swimming upwards toward larger and larger axiologies: within the context of the party scene there is enough power in the scenario where two girls start making out that the dudes, problematic as they may be, recede into the background — and most importantly they become the extra-diegetic technique by which we recognize this as a scenario of ecstatic desire.

This is a critical point: are you, patient reader, into watching faux-lesbians make out? Diegesis won’t work if we have to assume fetishes and secret desires and other small-axiological features; the extra-diegetic cloud of alien technologies tells you what is sacred and despicable and sexy, thus establishing diegesis-wide axiology. And this is how a scenario is constituted: a bubble of axiological sustained by alien hypnosis.

To recapitulate — in those scenarios desire and sacredness were diegetic. They worked through an array of self-effacing non-diegetic technologies. What is their net effect (in whatever axiology you have at hand while reading this)? If you had the firm conviction that kairos had come for revolution and the realization (meaning: a perception brought back from reality) that you had to be the initiator, would you rather be inside or outside the diegesis?

What do you think happens to the diegesis in general axiology anyway?

The scenarios of ecstasy

I.

I heard the other day there were no deaths that could be reliably attributed either to merciless sea bandit Edward Teach, the Blackbeard, or to his crew. His key weapons were instead his fearsome countenance and aura, the nauseating smells and the trembling death-flag of the ship, the noise made by his screaming shipmates and their crude explosives and with time the reputation accrued as a laughing death sentence that set his own beard on fire to prove himself invincible. In other words, Blackbeard operated not by production (by making something appear, namely death and horror) but by seduction — by alluding to an infinite violence that can never be fully realized but nonetheless marshals and effects his quability conditions.

True or not, it’s a good story. Variations of this formula have been long been taught in military schools, from the Winged Hussars of king Bathory to the “inverse urban geometry” of Shimon Naveh. Cruder or heavier methods of warfare (guerillas, the Nagasaki bombing) might appear to have aspects of this, but they work at a lower (quable) level. The key point of a strategy of seduction is not shock or surprise, but throwing the enemy’s tempo out of time, thus making space for your timing  (kairos). More simply put, the point is not that the enemy is overpowered, but that he’s made void. This is how Blackbeard (according to the story) realized (a technical term that means “brought from reality”; too many things are technical terms) his plunder, his chrematistics: by making his victims flee their ships without resistance.

Of course, there had to be something to Blackbeard — this scenario of infinite unrealizable violence doesn’t work if the pirate is actually three suburban kids stacked up inside a trenchcoat. The likelier hypothesis is that the violent existential style of Edward Teach gradually but not linearly rolls him down to piracy seas and shortly after crowns him captain. It’s also likely that there’s a much more delicate balance of power in a pirate ship than in the average farming kingdom, and that Teach stands out for his management skills and for the fear that he strikes in the hearts of men. Blackbeard is then not just captain Edward but a full conspiracy to evoke infinite violence and acquire infinite wealth.

Also: maybe the story isn’t true. This is why the Situation, ambient conditions, axiologies, tempo and kairos are all needed.

II.

Chronos/kyklos/kairos are awkward words; they also have some alternate connotations that collectors of Greek antiquities may bug me about. Kyklos finds a good translation in tempo;  kairos has to do with opportuneness and appropriateness and  “belongingness” — it’s about timing and weather fit for battle. Chronos should be “time”, plainly — which brings the same problem we have with words like “situation”, whose civilian meaning correlates but doesn’t really explain the technical stuff we’re trying to code in SATPLAN. When appropriate (i.e. when kairos, weather permit) we’ll try to use the symbolic term dt.

In short: time flows, tempo clicks, timing happens.

There’s a risk that I’m going to make discussion in parts II and III extremely confusing. I apologize in advance, and note that the blog has had ebbs and flows of intelligibility — maybe we come back to this later in a sweeter version.

Blackbeard is not like any one of us writing or reading this — even for Somali pirates, his Situation is uncognizable. His exploits were so long ago that they don’t even appear in sequence; he effectively appears frozen in one “click” of tempo. Everything is blurry enough that we can see the elbow marks of axiology and only the elbow marks of axiology. But if I want to sit here and weave a tale of infinite riches and expect the reader to believe me, the questions of time and timing/weather become unavoidable. Static value and ecstatic (ek-static, sitting besides itself) axiology are scenarios.

In movies there often are these college dudes smirking with desire while watching two girls who are making out. As per the axioms of desire, what the dudes want is nowhere to be found, it is the objet petit a. Whatever subsymbolic stuff runs through their fantasy isn’t of this timing-weather. There’s no opportunity to join in, only scopophiliac enjoyment in a tempo that’s in sync with the tempo of the apparent object of desire. More wholesomely, often patches of the situation are so “in sync” — so many things whose tempo seems to be synchronous, one with the dt, that the observer may as well feel as if they’re in a music video. More commonly the contrary effect is obtained by listening to music; enough of an openness to the tempo of the Situation and you’ll see the clouds move to what’s on your headphones.

[A magic formula: the Situation is a rhythmic pattern of clicking.]

That, patient readers, is desire and tempoValue and time is harder to analyze; I keep barking that we need to stay abstract, stay on top of the trees not to get lost in the woods, but on its own axiology (not general axiology, which by means of being the most valuable of all axiologies is the general axiology; but then it is an axiology: specific, just impossible to reach) is too generic a concept to Cartesian-multiply. Examples are needed — fierce pirates, homoerotic maidens, Capital.

III.

Many people like to find mysticism in Capital; looking at the mighty works of the Jedi, they theorize midchlorians. But as it turns out, a full metaphysics of Capital-up-to-kairos  has long been available.

Maybe this is an unfamiliar sentence structure;  allow Wikipedia to unroll it for you: “A statement is true up to a condition if the establishment of that condition is the only impediment to the truth of the statement”. A full metaphysics of Capital would be available if the only ambient time conditions were time and tempo. Up to kairos, all captains of Spanish galleons in 1480-1580 were close to infinitely rich. Un-suspend the weather and most ships sink.

But theory is about suspending things, right?

Up to tempo, Capital is the quantitative effect of the force of interest, whose metaphysics is a mathematical theory, fully finalized by Euler, Lagrange and Laplace roughly from 1745 to 1785. This is how metaphysics works at its best: not precluding every thing that has happened before, but surfacing at the precise moment the world-scenario it’s supposed to describe emerges.

Within the scenario of capital, value is very simply a real number (a point in the infinite, infinitely dense number line going from -\infty to \infty. There’s loss of generality in this reductive move, but not so much — in any axiology except the very small ones, some things are more valuable than others; and while there usually are many dimensions to value, in the scenario of capital we imagine they have been sorted out by the social process that enacts large axiologies.

We can therefore theorize value (possibly the value of the whole universe, or a mutual fund; or both, mereology is weird) into the indefinitely long term. This theory could be called anything, but just in case you want to follow along with Wikipedia, we’ll be calling it f. That theory is a function (or assignment or map etc) f\colon dt \mapsto f(dt); it endows each instant of time with a value, effectively writing a full history of the future.

Associated with f(dt) is F(ds), its Laplace transform or “net present value” in MBA-speak. The Laplace transform is not a function of time, but of a relative rate between the future and the present. The higher this rate, the less we value the distance future and more the present. This could imply, for example, not being willing to take a loss in the short term to make more later. For a while I used to insist on Nick Land’s comment sections that to understand Capital he had to read Damodaran on Valuation, a practical manual on these matters. For casual readers, I should just point to professor Damodaran’s website. We’re eventually going to need a lot of his stuff in the implementation stages of general axiology.

Un-suspending tempo is uncomplicated. In the real world Capital is clicky — I can’t loan you money for 0.03 seconds, in usual contract structures interest accrues monthly or yearly. As long as everything clicks in sync, you can use the Laplace transform just fine; otherwise you can use Excel spreadsheets, like every peasant. Time, tempo and Riemann integration: the mystery of Capital, ladies and gentlemen! Up to kairos, of course.

IV.

The Laplace transform is a good example of something that’s far more abstract than what the application requires. For real-valued interest rates, the interpretation of the Laplace transform is (exactly) moneylike; for complex-valued interest rates with nonzero imaginary parts, it allows for theorizing about structures-over-time that oscillate with rate over envelopes that collapse or explode. These do not have moneylike interpretations, but are indicative of how un-moneylike relationships between value and time can be, even under the hackneyed scenario of Capital-up-to-kairos. For a while, there was a lot of hope by good-natured men such as F.A. Hayek that the scenario of markets (the synchronization/orchestration of supply-logistics and demand-axiologistics) somehow translated to the scenario of Capital, where the interest rates would be the “price of capital” for a marginal unit of flow-time dt. Yet the abundant evidence of time-inconsistent behavior in humans should say something about the Darwinian quability of force-of-interest. It does: time consistency implies the Laplace transform.

The technical literature on time inconsistency has accomplished a lot of what technical literatures are prone to accomplishing, but hasn’t allowed for the idea that time is inconsistent. The fact that different cultures synchronize to common tempos differently (not only how long after 3PM is “late”, but what’s the value-over-time structure within that structure of indifference) is proof enough that the common tempo is as much a cultural construction as the common writing system. Which implies: tempo is an object of large axiologies. How do we construct a theory of large-axiology-value over endogenous tempo? How do we reform a country’s pension system? There’s a lot to go through.

So how were we even able to hold up Capital for discussion for so many paragraphs? Primarily thanks to godmen like Euler and Laplace, but also because we allowed Capital to be an ecstatic scenario rather than a real social (and therefore large-axiological) phenomenon. The college dudes from the movie situation with pastiche homoeroticism know this — they’re not in any kind of psychoanalytic denial about the nature of their desire — they merely enact a structural scenario of ecstatic desire (but rarely an ecstatic scenario). Desire for what? Objet petit a, get with the program.

To borrow from Slavoj Zizek: an analogy can be drawn between the object cause of desire and the plastic trinket inside a Kinder’s Surprise Egg. To believers in a clean delineation between subjectivity and objectivity, the goal of eating a Kinder egg is getting to the middle and enjoying the toy hidden in it. But (Zizek presents this as an ethical program but in my view is a higher order structural affair having to do with diplomacy between axiologies) the token trinket is precisely that – a token – ie an excuse for eating the chocolate. Similarly the point of having been defeated by Blackbeard is not that he could have harmed you, but that you were scared.

If we could obtain the permission to sample the audio of Zizek’s Slavic-inflected phrase “in a perverse way” in Slavic accent, we would continue, musically – in sync. In a perverse way, we do not thirst for the fruits of capital intensification — not even in the ultimate form of the Singularity (which is infinity-for-free). In a perverse way, we invite acceleration (the future, sooner) because we desire to be giddy in the process and court the chance of finding kairos. Even the girls who, in a perverse way, kiss each other for attention are not the point of the male gaze’s interest.

The end goal of any such scenario is not satisfaction — the point is ecstasy, ie to having been there. That’s what an ecstatic scenario is: a type of seduction, attached to a type of chrematistics, attached to a sequence of increasing axiologies. In general axiology ecstasy is finally true.

Kyklos/Kairos

I.

A hidden consequence of this intense focus on axiology as a prime sequentiating thread is that what theory exposition teases at is a world that is “whyness all the way down”. It leaves nothing to explain except systemic settings and proximal reasons. But note “whyness” and not “meaningness” as per current vogue: the discourse of theory is technical and void and radically apraxic.

Even then, theory realizes (this is a technical word, it means “brings something from reality”) itself only to the point allowed by reigning constraints of interfacticity. For example, we’ve been happily talking about larger  and smaller axiologies and leaving pregnant silences about the resulting mereological issues. And it’s not that there isn’t a way out, it’s that theory can only be said to be realized if it’s understood by someone else and can potentially be explained to a third party and so on. So like seduction in the classical sexual context, theory depends on this dance. Am I saying Harsanyi type spaces will make us infinite? Only as far as possible under reigning constraints of interfacticity.

If our project was philosophical, we’d have to decide at this point which grand gamble to place: either generic structure is apraxic (the Parmenidean option); or either there is something fundamental about “coping” (the Heideggerean option) that mends the apraxia of theory with the mundaneness of everyday (ambient) conditions. But a man once wrote a poem that said theory is waiting, la théorie est attente, établissement de l’hômme — du réel sans chair, sans phrase, sans monde, l’acte sans pratique, la formule sans discourse… this man, Gilles Grelet, gave us something else to do rather than philosophy: to suspend the shitmess that is praxis.

This entails, of course, the dangerous game we’ve been playing here for the last few months: moving beyond the reality principle.

 

II.

Can something be done about theory? Under truth-rain, the answer is “sort of”. Theory interfaces with coping, which is at once generic praxis, the praxis of praxis of praxis, and minimal praxis in the sense that many other things are practiced. But the failure to cope is death, and there’s nothing apraxic, let alone theoretical about that — death is the limit point of “meaningness”, the boundary layer of truth. This is a trap! It binds us to philosophy.

But there’s a second answer, a confident “yes”. At a cost: we have to brave outside truth-rain. Take care not to lose your soul in the process — this is not for children.

A rough Vedic misreading of Ancient Greek religion is that it worshipped time against chaos. This is literally true in their stories: king-god Zeus himself was the bastard son of Chronos, this principle of tragic sequentiation. But as much as they might have evoked Chronos in their famous stageplay tragedies, the ancients saw their practical affairs as taking place in a much different time, sequentiated in l human fallibility. This is known as Kyklos. Throughout the classical course of kyklos (ie through shitmess of classical praxis) hard times bore strong men who bore good times who bore weak men who bore hard times, possibly with more intermediate, pedagogic steps. (To foreshadow: two questions are thereby posed by those who live in kyklos: how to slow it down, and how to accelerate it.)

If coping is a kind of “degree zero” of praxis, kyklos is the tempo of praxis — implicitly, those who read the Space Opera have been aware of its role in sequentiating the frames of the satisfiability planning problem that technically define the ambient conditions. Kyklos is as easily measured in phase angles as in chronic durations; to misquote a YouTuber, kyklos is the tempo of “the wave; and if you’re surfing you do not confuse yourself with the wave”.

III.

Metabolical creatures such as humans (and unlike, say, lizards) are born with a chronic ticking clock that stops only with death (the crest wave of “meaningness”), but they nevertheless report kyklic variances — anomalous experience of tempo in pace, duration and even order of events. Kyklic anomalies only propagate through interfacticity, and particularly interfacticites incident on kyklic beings; but the phenomenology of this is familiar to pretty much everyone who has been through times of cheer and times of loss.

That the tempo of praxis fluctuates like a jazz drummer should make us suspicious that there is something to reality that is nonpractical, ie something that is not indexed by the succession of frame axioms. Theory (the theory of generic structure) dares by its mere impracticality to suggest apraxic attentats against the the surface continuity of tempo. It dares to pose increasing sequences of axiologies taking place in a time out of tempo, bursting out ahead of disclosure in sheer chronicity.

Also following Ancient Greek usage, we give the name Kairos to the time of apraxic insurrection. The literal meaning of Kairos is weather (a collision that has been kept in many languages, to the point that talking heads say “the prediction of time” on TV). This is synecdoche: the weather is decisive in the opportuneness of action in naval battles — not any weather, of course, but the weather that quabilizes naval battle in pure and akyklic chronicity.

Indeed all sorts of practical pursuits hinge on finding a footing (material balance and ability to dance) in kairos; much of what is called “risk” has to do with hallucinating the presence of battle weather.

But something that is to dance with kairos has to have already lifted off from the surface of tempo. To fly above the surface of tempo one must leap upward into apraxia. Theory is waiting in mid-air.

The sound of music

I.

General axiology is not a get-rich-quick scheme. But it implies one.

That I allude at increasing frequency to its (generically!) infinite possibilities plays a structural role not in theory but in the development of theory. The secret of theory is not that truth can’t be told (this is common wisdom to all philosophical traditions), but rather that theory itself isn’t produced — it is not made to appear. On the contrary, theory operates by seduction. Like in the old joke about how statistics resemble bikinis, what theory shows can be sensational, but what it hides is the objet petit a.

That I keep saying that I don’t have a working theory of general axiology yet, and that a conspiracy is needed to produce it fulfills a triple role: (a) it’s the kind of honest disclaimer by which we allow ourselves to fail completely (b) it performs a kind of dance-of-the-seven-veils that aludes (again, in full honesty) to the structural role of seduction in how theory is performed in public and (c) it tries to seduce the reader to join the conspiracy (itself a “conspiracy-rain”, a surrender to ambient conditions of concert).

Of course, that this all has some performative content does not elude anyone used to philosophical gobbledygook. But the reader that trusts that there’s something consistent to what we’re doing may be inclined to believe that the get-rich-quick stuff [frame axioms] is an application of general axiology, when it’s actually in the stuff of general axiology. Given that no axiology is larger than general axiology, it would indeed be less inaccurate (but still bizarre) to say that general axiology is an application [frame axiom] of the get-rich-quick scheme.

The core of Hindu monism (Advaita Vedanta), at least selon Alan Watts, is that Atman is Brahman, that the jewel within the True Self is one and the same with the universal principle of expansion my intellectual friends like to worship as Reality. This is also our limiting claim: larger ethics subsumes chrematistics and is subsumed by… red balloons all the way up to general axiology.

II.

Common (small-ish, perhaps within the reach of a functional hypomanic) axiology is more or less divided in self-justified tiny, (left or right) half axiologies. The surface tension between these “micrologies” is the origin of larger axiologies: at one level economics and ethics are at odds; the next level therefore carries a (left/intensional) theory of the ethical means of valuing things by economics. But left-half axiologies are toothless; a larger axiology is stabilized by a strong (right-half) extensional means of production, such as the Law.

There’s enough material for a seminar on the origins of the Law (seen as a construct of the axiology machine) in the surface tension between left and right half-axiologies. But we want to talk instead about chrematistics, which is to say, the valuable (consonant to a suitably large axiology) means of obtaining great wealth. The subject is rarely broached in polite (theory) circles; this is partly explained by the availability of economics as a (left-half/intensive) theory where ten million bucks is worth ten times as much as a million bucks and certain works of art may be worth even more.

The overwhelming technical success of economics has made bogus squabbles (such as usury) disappear in sufficiently large axiologies, while making others blurry (which can be empirically verified at art auctions). But it didn’t explain away (1) what is great wealth and (2) how to obtain it. Marx, an early economist, saw this problem on the horizon, answering: (1) labor-time and (2) surplus value and exploitation. The technical problem with this system is that both “labor” and “time” in “labor-time” are too heterogeneous; the resulting practical problem is that this reduces the creation of value to the extraction of stockpiles of time and therefore the obtainment of wealth to its acquisition. Therefore all wealth is the exploitation of finite time, and there’s no valuable path to great wealth — no chrematistics.

(A hypothetical question: didn’t some people at least get rich doing this? Actually they didn’t do it by pure time-theft; they had to provide civilization –some large enough axiology that supports “exploitative” economics. There is a “White Man’s burden” even in rapacious oppression.)

III.

It’s probably clear by now that we have to define great wealth if we are to speak the discourse of infinity.  Several real/quable-life preconditions apply: you should already be on speaking terms with your desire  — you’re truly fucked if you’re stuck dreaming the dreams of others. You should also strive to become increasingly mindful of your Pink Panther,

What might need  insistent and progressive clarification is that the discourse of infinity is a structural affair. If we weren’t so ill-disposed towards abusing mathematical metaphor, we could suggest it’s an algebraic affair. On its apparent quable merits, general axiology is a geodesical dome, a very large yet lightweight structure that spans a surprising volume. Desire (notice singular form; not “desires”) that is structurally compatible with a suitable general axiology is in almost every aspect already fulfilled, met, extinct; general axiologies that fit our desire structure by definition make us infinite — the problem is obtaining one.

The word”chrematistics” stems from the Ancient Greek term for the art of acquiring great material wealth. That there are several small-ish chrematistics whose means for obtaining value are not valuable means has not escaped the Ancients. This is not to say that “axiologistics” has thus disappeared from the theory-making landscape; large axiologies of power and legitimacy has often interfaced with the smaller axiology of war — a form of chrematistics that is submissive to higher-goal is rediscovered there under the soubriquet of “strategy”. But increasingly (for example, in corporate boards) the “why” finds itself as  the core theme of “strategy”-making, whereby fitting strategy to ambient conditions of truth-market-war has the pseudoalgebraic structural role of fitting the desire structure to the general axiology.

A conspiracy — even if just a conspiracy to understand, to figure out if Jair is getting impeached soon or the Supreme Court will be successful in initiating the coup d’état it just announced — needs to go through the work of general axiology. And, at the risk of repeating ourselves, desire satisfaction is key to uncovering general axiologies and working forward towards the theory of generic structure.

The Wave

Let’s try again from the top.

1. Theory is the theory of generic structure (i.e. the theory of the theory of the theory of the … of the theory of generic structure)

2.1. A left (half) axiology is an intensional theory of what’s valuable. Left axiologies can define values but not produce them.

2.2 A full axiology is a left axiology together with a right (half) axiology, defined as an extensional theory of what’s valuable. The extensional theory is able to produce (= make apparent) values. When we say “axiology” simpliciter we mean “full axiology”.

2.3 An axiology A is larger than an axiology A’ if it contains a theory of the valuable means of producing values in A’.

2.4. We give the name general axiologies to the largest possible axiologies. However we have not yet obtained an extensional theory that is able to produce the valuable means of producing a general axiology; therefore we can at best speak of general half axiologies, and this at the risk of any random person exhibit a larger half axiology.

3. Structure is structured as a structure. Generic structure is distinguished by the fact that it is structured as generic structure only. (In contrast the unconscious is structured as a language and statistics is structured as a measure theory over elementary events).

3.1. It may or may not be the case that there is a unique general axiology; but clearly there is a unique generic structure. To wit, two parallel pseudogeneric structures would have the structure of being a generic structure which is the generic structure.

3.2 By construction the generic structure is nonquabilistic.

4. Structures are pure intensional structures (again a recursive definition). An image: structures are pure beings of pure light.

4.1 Quability is the extensional fringe of structures. Quability is what makes angels glow. Technical analogies: satisfiability for Boolean propositions or probability for random events.

4.2. Quables are extensive (= having extension) incidence relations such as: “as a”. Greater degrees of abstraction are achieved by avoiding working with quables themselves and dealing itself in quability conditions (and subsequently the quability conditions of quability conditions…) This is essential in working on social and political issues.

5. What do we want? Infinite wealth and infinite wisdom.

5.1. How will we get it? General axiology.

5.2. Where do we want it? In the asemic horizon?

5.3. When do we want it? Sooner than later, but I might need help. What is needed, after all, is a conspiracy.

The unbearable lightness of Prince Kropotkin in Hi-Z

I

The recursive definition of “theory”: theory is the theory of generic structure. Just leaving this here.

II

A veritable constitutional crisis that has been brewing in Brazil for a while is currently reaching a boiling point. ‘Tis probably none of the things you are thinking about if you aren’t extremely current on Brazilian politics (myself, I’m not — I’m just “well-versed”).

To a significant extent this crisis mode is well-known to the American public, who term it “judicial activism” (wherever they’re even aware of it). But “activism” is a gentle name that alludes to the kind of personalistic, unintelligible personal axiology that leads people to riot, whereas this rift is a structural affair carrying near-tectonic energies.

(It would be a great disservice to the patient reader who keeps being sucked into theoretical texts if I attempted to quickly summarize the literature on the structural fault lines of presidential systems all by myself; the stuff of politics is best explained by professional political scientists. I strongly endorse Scott Mainwaring on presidentialism in/and Latin America; more generally I encourage a deep dive into David Easton, although much of his best work is in paper books not usually found outside university libraries.)

There is a subtle distinction yet to be made between a contradiction (which comes in two forms — logical or dialectical; the latter requires subscribing to a particular ontological genre, at least locally), a paradox and an aporia. I’m not equipped to put forward a generic theory of this distinction; but from the phenomenology, a paradox is an epistemological embarrassment that points to a deeper unity that’s not yet understood; an aporia, on the other hand, is an impasse on some deeper plane of univocity. An aporia embarrasses Understanding because Understanding realizes (it brings something from reality) that something about the world is not structured in the same way (not by isomorphism nor by analogy) that Understanding is.

The key point of the poli sci literature that has deeply influenced us is that presidentialism, the system of separation of powers, is structurally untenable. This is empirically verifiable — all well-functioning political systems are parliamentary, while most presidential systems (particularly off-OECD) alternate coups, political crises and generalized corruption to keep congress in place. The takeaway of mr. Mainwaring’s works for us is that presidentialism is probably unquable with  (within? the arity of quability still confuses us) the ambient conditions of truth (maybe one day we’ll able to verify this by computer); more importantly, you might need to part ways with the truth-rain in order to fully cope with presidentialism.

To the extent that political representation is even possible, parliamentary representation has the greater resolution; roughly, the greatest entropy-carrying capacity. This is why political systems where mass representation is absorbed by a singular figure are wildly considered “undemocratic”, a ten-dollar word which translates to “bad”. Following this, we could  temporarily suspend all discussion of the facticity of democracy and political representation and assign a type to the word “democracy” without assigning a corresponding value — democracy is of type “large axiology” (large because it’s a higher-order theory of how smaller axiologies can be constructed and/or validated).

All democracies (meaning “all large axiologies attached to claims of political legitimacy”) feature parliamentary representation. This can either be taken as an empirical fact given a fixed definition of “large axiology” and “legitimacy”, or a constraint on large axiologies such that the real world emerges. Presidential systems sport a separate and independent branch of government that  has a claim to equal or stronger political legitimacy, by contrast of the historically clear presidential image and the  dilution of individual legitimacy claims in bodies with as many as 600 members). But this  stronger claim to legitimacy (under quability conditions for “democracy”) is necessarily attached to a smaller axiology that is continually tested for quability with the larger axiology (for journalists: “presidential power is expected to respect the rules of democracy). Therefore structurally (but not in terms of legitimacy and actual range of action) the Presidency are effectively powerless against the larger axiology that may reshape it.

How is it possible then that presidents are actually really powerful and generally held as the foremost leaders of the nations their governments rule over?  An easy answer in common language — the constitution enforces specific attributions and powers to the Bossman. But what is this constitution? On some structural level it encodes some of the meta-values of large axiology (there may be several large axiologies but you come here to learn about Brazilian politics) in prescriptive form (the large morality that lies above large chrematistics). But constitutions are “ill-posed”; they’re overquable, they admit “many interpretations” in more or less the same way a CNF formula admits many satisfiable “solutions”. Is this a problem? Only in the absence of an even larger axiology.

Of course such an even larger axiology exists, right? “The values held by society at large” or whatever Foucault you want to fit in this. Legitimacy is not the source of overconstitutional power — it’s a floating sign that points to the large-scale (large in timespace-length, not in the sense of larger and smaller axiologies) emergent process which dotes the thing of the world with a certain stability and the freedom from utter chaos. But nevertheless the even-larger axiology is powerful enough that mob rule effectively rules over constitutional controls which rules over presidential power.

Therefore presidential power is incompatible with the large axiology. Aporia.

III.

I’m renowned for playing fast and loose, but here we’re being even less prudent than usual. No attempt at a technical theory of larger and smaller axiologies has been made in the space opera.  The quability status of “legitimacy” in formulas involving axiologies and axiology drift is left floating. Why? In an analogy that may in the future be codified in technical theory or plainly forgotten, the fog of realpolitik (which is the continuation of war by other means) presents a high enough level of impedance that a three-valued logic is materially implied  where the quable states HIGH and LOW are complemented by the unintelligible (yet formally perfect) state of HI-Z.

But I do hope the ruse of large axiology in this specific context is clear. We’ve replaced a (necessary but best found elsewhere) theory of real politics by a theory of the value systems that animate the thing of the world. Humans (their vanity, akrasia, lust) are mostly left out of the story. Of course, phenomena like political corruption are perfectly quable to large axiology; the floating sign “corruption” (possibly a hi-Z state in the logic of legitimacy) is fully implied by the floating sign “democracy” (which is replaced by the low-impedance theory of large axiology.) To wit, large axiology contains a large chrematistics — in which lining one’s pocket is usually subordinate to a large morality of political change. As axiologies become larger and larger money loses its end-goal status; in crude analogy it has the role of bowls of condoms in an orgy.

This is, again, not a theory of how people behave, it’s a theory of value, or rather a theory of value theories. With this trick, the bowls-of-condom analogy of money  (i.e. that money is required but not sufficient in the general axiology that will make us infinite points) points to a realist-moralist view of the world. Realist normativity! Paradox.

IV

The breaking point of the constitutional crisis: a petit comité of members of parliament is suing for the impeachment of over one-third of the Supreme Court. The proximal cause: in its capacity as Revolutionary Guard, the Court has decided that the law on hate and violent crimes stemming from racism applies to hate and violent crimes stemming from homophobia. Note well that this doesn’t mean that, in its capacity as the ultimate interpreter (i.e. the ultimate source of quability) of the Law, the Court has decided that homophobia is a type of racism, presumably because they both imply the wrong attribution of moral value to a biological invariant (this assuming the ahistorical view that homosexual preferences are obtained in the womb). No, nene, no — the larger chrematistics contained in the larger axiology (mob rule) has prevailed over the large axiology roughly associated with the word “democracy”. The judges have echoed the theses of the plaintiffs (which didn’t even have a token antagonist; this wasn’t a court case, LGBT interest groups simply bullied the Judges) on the heinousness of homophobia.

[Note how, while lacking technical clarification, the theory (remember: theory is the theory of generic structure) of larger and smaller axiologies shines a light on this crisis as an type of equilibrium solution stemming from the systemic source of quability.]

Of course, “democracy” fights back. Parliament has not been asleep during this naked power grab. The Court’s capacity as criminal court for politicians further complicates the matter: parliament it has not been asleep while their actions under large chrematistics have been criminalized and delegitimized, putting many of its members at the mercy of the Court. Thus the ongoing potential for a constitutional crisis: The relative incompetence of politicians who haven’t been able to operate under sufficient secrecy has empowered the Court in its capacity as criminal court, and it would seem that this newfound legitimacy (i.e. this large-chrematistic engineering) would translate to its capacity as Revolutionary guard. After all, as you might have noticed in Glenn Greenwald’s writings, the Brazilian Parliament kind of sucks, doesn’t it? Each election makes it more and more conservative, how is it supposed to enact mob rule axiology?

By virtue of reflecting this more-and-more conservative weltanschauung, Jair’s presidential victory produces a focal point; it makes criminalizing homophobia an urgent matter (a high-valued action in mob rule axiology). The progressive self-empowerment of the Revolutionary Guard makes them natural allies. Which makes the Supreme Court, in their current configuration, enemies of “democracy”. Contradiction.

IV

(If you have been following us (parts 1234) you’re not naive enough to regex-replace “democracy” for “good”. That’s somewhat akin to investing money in some really bad savings account whose interest rates barely cover inflation. But we haven’t decreed in #NRx style that “democracy” is “chaos” either; we may have no use for that word in the general axiology that will make us infinitely wise and infinitely rich.)

A gentle introduction to Asemic Horizon

qps - Copia (3)What is meant by “asemic horizon”?

  • bits and pieces of theory (recursive definition: theory is the theory of generic structure); streams threatening to coalesce into rivulets;
  • an asymptote (a horizon); as theory approaches it, the entire world becomes pure gestures. Pure gestures can be understood; in the real situation which is saturated with meanings, the world can be only coped with.
  • an attempt to systematize said theoretical resources, the Theory FAQ. This is not open to the public; either contact me, if you can discover how, or ask someone who already has the password.
  • a blog, in your screen right now, that purports to explain what the hell is going on and how can one cope with it.  This spirals out out from the rise and tenure of Jair Messias Bolsonaro. (Note: I’d rather make you — and myself — rich rather than make you understand.  But this is a promise I’m not willing to make yet.)

By clicking on the link shortly to come (probably titled “read more”) WordPress will expand this page onto a short recap of where we began and where we’re going.

More

White on white translucent black capes: Lyndon LaRouche (1922-2019)

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Obituaries will make the pedestrian mistake of lumping Lyndon LaRouche’s journey together with the likes of David Duke or David Icke. Note the characterization of a “mistake”: they will present his 60-odd years of political involvement as some sort of right-wing rhubarb, but not because they find his politics abhorrent. Who knows what his politics really were? Through all of his intelligence-gathering and cult-building and conspiracy-writing,  what wasn’t LaRouche wrong about at some point? Denounced by Communist and Nazi parties, recruiting followers by the thousands through idiosyncratic psychoanalysis from Canada to Germany to the Philippines (peer-reviewed journals connect him to the Ba’aath party of Iraq), intensely paranoid about classical music (A=432hz lives on at YouTube), repeatedly running for president with Plato vs. Aristotle as a signature issue…

These are just randomly picked from the Wikipedia page on him. (The LaRouche Movement has a separate, even longer Wiki article). Lyndon LaRouche, man. The Keith Jarrett of political extremists, the Whitman of cult leaders, the Rothko of tax evaders.

Conspiracy theories emerge from the fact that the world is already saturated by meaning. They float atop, like seagulls in a sea of trash. This is why facts can’t get in the way of, say, Hollow-Earth theory — in effect conspiracy theories don’t contradict reality. As we swim toward an asemic horizon, we move away from the conspiracy merchants (Pinkers and Dugins and Foucaults and Breitbarts and Paglias…) that saturate the already hypoxic waters. But as his lights go out, it’s worth saluting the intensity and fierceness of Lyndon LaRouche.

Here’s hoping we don’t need it.

Being-in-Patropi

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I.

These notes are primarily a means of stimulating thought. First and foremost in myself: although open to the web, they’re basically being disseminated in a small inner circle that’s known to cultivate (and tolerate in others) the noises made in forceful attempts to think. Furthermore these notes are not quite essays: they’re badly and hastily written in distracting non-idiomatic English. They’re written in haste because too much text has to be written and discarded in order to arrive at something sufficiently concise for their ostensible purpose; and in bad style because they attempt to convey something that’s poorly understood.

Where they’re (hopefully) adequate — what they document in adequacy: coping with the situation under (the ambient conditions of) truth; and groping towards a theoretical vocabulary that expresses in adequacy what the ambient conditions materially entail. This is almost the same as “a vocabulary that expresses true things”, except that “the truth” can, at best, be said in adequacy, not in reality.  Still, these tortured and obscure statements need to rise to a higher standard (that I’ve cheekily called elsewhere quability by contrast to probability) in order to inform action; and what’s needed for this is a vast array of conceptual resources that are already handled with difficulty by philosophers. I’m in a precarious position by contrast, writing in stolen chunks of time and reaching for that porous membrane between what one knows and what one doesn’t.

This kind of “theoretician’s apology” is necessary from time to time if one is to expose oneself to the ambient conditions of truth. But also more concretely because I’ve promised to say almost-true things (material entailments in adequacy, maybe henceforth to be abbreviated “i.a.” in the style of mathematicians) about Jair Messias Bolsonaro. Outside the inner circle that’s game for my usual antics, it’s i.a. true that you have been promised political insight and received a first-primer-in-English (I used to write in my native tongues) on my technical vocabulary (interfacticity, the Situation, quability, ambient conditions…).

The issue is that in precalculus you learn that 1/0 = \pm \infty and then progressively learn that nothing is what it seems; the issue is that I could give you political opinions and (a) run a risk of being so pathetically refuted by evolving events that overwhelms the payoff in trying to say something under truth; and (b) constantly stray from the rain-truth as judgements of policy and efficacy bleed through the (i.a.) true things I want to express.

Asked at gunpoint to provide an executive summary already, I’d ‘fess up to trying to articulate true and novel insights on what the hell is going on. But that would already be a partial lie. We can only refer to evolving structural conditions and how the structural role currently being played by Jair fits in an abstract structure that could go anywhere. Macunaíma, for one, is Moloch-in-Patropi (and this is no longer merely in adequacy). Then: where’s Jair?

In hospital.

 

II.

My drafts folder has fragments of text that mobilize Simulacra and Simulation and The Real Slim Shady in service of making sense of Bolsonaro’s “pink panther” (let me repeat: his “becoming-world carried out in such a way that it becomes imperceptible”) — his years of antipolitical, self-alienating congressional service and his (having become-imperceptible) meteoric rise to popular acclaim. There’s much to say about that — in particular how he differs from Viktor Orbán and the likes in that his career has never had a chessmasterly calculated masterplan to reach dictator-like conditions of self-perpetuating legitimity.  Bolsonaro’s rise is no accident — it’s carried by the entire systemic wave of causality that leaves nothing out. But there’s something particular, a metamorphic quality that differs from the usual cynical metamorphism of politicians.

That’s interesting. But not especially current.

What is especially current is that Bolsonaro lies in hospital, his very guts (from where gut feeling and dead reckoning come from) swinging between getting better and getting worse again. Bolsonaro is in hospital because they tried to assassinate him. The following is as much a fact (not just in adequacy) as political statements go: the very status quo, through its satellite parties (Lula tends to indicate presidential candidates for his satellite parties in larger-than-life big TV screens at party conventions), did this.

If this seems approximately innocuous, I suggest trying to conceptualize (in adequacy — maybe in quability, even) the structural features of John F. Kennedy before and after assassination.

The attempt on Jair’s life made him unique — Macunaíma, or the (very rough, not even i.a.) background radiation of irony, or point-blank postmodernism, has never allowed for that in our political history. Not only by giving him historical importance, but by making him suffer. Ambient conditions are not especially dire for his health in the long term, as far as TV tells us, but this suffering has already been far more protracted than anyone could have anticipated. And in a culture (shared by Americans, as far as we know) where ill health is metonymic with political weakness, nothing seems different now that Jair has been placed in intensive care for the third time and his recuperation seems to be slower with each passing day.

Having emerged from ridicule as an isolated far-right congressman who would make speeches for empty congress sessions, Jair has performed the most-celebrated presidential inauguration in a generation, forcefully introduced Brazil’s dormant weight both in the Israel-Palestinian and Venezuelan crises and convoked the most chaotic ministerial cabinet in generations that somehow moves forward under his banner of “being saved by the Truth”. And he did this with a colostomy bag under his suit — translation: he did this while smelling like shit. 

There is a (quable, which is stronger than in-adequacy) cynic-in-the-historical-sense quality to this — Bolsonaro smells like shit like Diogenes lives in a barrel. By minimizing Alexander, king of kings, Diogenes takes on some frightening kind of power (and power is always taken, not given. By suffering in hospital while not making himself into a martyr, Jair vexes our baudrillardian theories of what he was until a few years ago and how he became his pink-panther. There’s nothing postmodern about his wounds — not in his shredded bits of duodenum nor in the doctor’s expert sewing. Macunaíma reels and teeters on a segfault; the likes of Caetano Veloso repeat empty slogans but transparently reveal — in their sweat and the bags under their eyes — their thorough and even existential confusion.

And you too, potential reader, ask yourself — what the hell is going on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth and love and Eichmann in Patropi

(See Part 1 here.)

I.

pravda

This is a third or fourth draft. Each prior version has been discarded, deleted even. I can find many explanations for my ongoing inability to follow up to that explanation of Brazilian politics and society as immanently ironic. The natural segue would be to develop a theory of transcendental irony to generalize the Brazilian situation rather than being mired in local details. The goal of such a theory would be to elucidate the elementary particles (disavowal, pretense, bluff, dissembling, etc.) of ironic praxis and their configuration in what we could call the background radiation of postmodernity.

Yet the problem with this strategy is that Macunaíma is at once micro and macro, constituent part and systemic outcome. Maybe this is why wiser men have argued against transcendental theorizing — not because the transcendent can’t be truthfully denied (as perhaps someone like Jordan Peterson would argue) but because this notion of “background radiation” fails as disavowal, pretense, bluff, dissembling… the immanence of ironic praxis pushes out everything else (theory, the transcendent, the possibility of neat reductive argumentation…)

Taking irony seriously fails. So does taking irony ironically. Fails at what? At reading the “glitches in the Matrix” for what they are. This is how “Truth is the only weapon mortals can use in their struggle against the gods“: wherever we’re at peace with the ongoing situation, irony (disavowal, etc.) suffices. This is also why the demands on theory posed by Bolsonaro and Trump are so different. Trump is to the existing dialectical infrastructure (i.e. to deal with multiple inconsistent truth-claims) as Deep Blue is to Kasparov. The “establishment” reels because it has been defeated (in a game! this is still within/salvageable under the principle of sufficient irony) by unknown strategies for known rules.

The problem posed by Jair Bolsonaro is much more interesting. Jair is neither an old-school partisan for whom the ideology is true and justifies the means, nor a Trumpian master ironist. Repeated to the point of brainwashing, his political banner  “and you shall know the Truth and the Truth shall save you” is (like Deleuze’s Pink Panther’s) his “becoming-world carried out in such a way that it becomes imperceptible.” 

This is not a whimsical quotation; please read it once more. Like Trump, Jair contradicts himself; but the mature Trumpian engineering of ironic disavowals followed by overlapping bluffs is replaced by something asymptotically approaching a pure Socratic position. Again, this is not banal, but incendiary: Jair Bolsonaro is a man willing to take a public stance of “I understand none of this”. 

II.

Please indulge me while I try some freestyle soteriology.

Whether he fully realizes this or not, Jair’s Truth is not transcendent, not tactical, nor even epistemic. One does not come to know the Truth like one acquires knowledge of point-set topology. Knowledge of Truth comes as knowledge of rain — not even experiential knowledge but experience itself. To know the truth is to experience ambient truth-conditions.

How is the truth supposed to “help us fight the gods”? By piercing through what we tried and failed to call the “background radiation of irony”. Thus the biblical promise echoed through Jair’s banner: the experience-itself of truth (screaming under truth and crying under truth and making love under truth) is ecstatic. Truth stands besides itself, and in situations conducive to such an ec-stasis we experience being besides it.

What’s really tricky about this business of truth-ecstasis is that it’s surprisingly hard to clearly distinguish an existential situation (walking under truth) from an epistemological outcome (having truth on your side). Zizek correctly states that “God exists and therefore everything is permitted” — an unspoken consequence being that fascism is the product of epistemic rather than moral sins. On the contrary: a deep sense of morality in disagreement with ambient conditions pushes people into bridging is-ought gaps and walking away from the truth.

This should be in everyone’s minds as we ponder the chaos and corruption of the Worker’s Party rule: these were people that served a moral project that was very specifically dissonant from ambient conditions — and yet pure enough to tolerate passing for as long as possibly. It seems accordingly that this boorish new man would lead us to an alternate moral project dictated by his standard Christian values and his right-wing military training. But the Jair era is no mirror of the past.

It’s a strange and radical experiment where no one claims to “have the truth”. And if Jair’s presidency fails to deliver on these radical promises, their apparent capillarity might have already delivered at least some of the spiritual transformation that saves us from Macunaíma.

But maybe not, of course. Who the hell knows.

The myth of Epistemon and Epiphron

(Note: this is going under some grammar and style revisions.)



“I am not an immense being”
, said Epistemon.

Eudoxia had delicately rolled off bed, hoping that the sudden release of compressive energy wouldn’t  wake him up. The sound stopped her mid-stride from where she was going, from moving on to whatever women do after sex. When she turned back, he was sitting up, feeling his throat and face for where the nasality of “immense” came from.

What she did next is what every woman like Eudoxia does to mollify a man like Epistemon. Keep connected to the warm glow of sexual intimacy, and praise him.

“That was good. That was a good time. I enjoyed–“

“I’m not saying I’m not ‘good in bed’. That’s not what-” interrupted Epistemon, stopping mid-sentence expecting to be interrupted too.  “I’m not saying I’m good either”, he continued, replying to himself and to the silence.

“I felt good. I’m still feeling good”, offered Eudoxia while it was still true, half-feeling and half-conceptualizing the incoming oxytocin peak and crash.

“So you say I didn’t do you wrong–“

“You didn’t. I wanted it. I felt good.”, she insisted, disappearing past the bathroom wall.

“Which is great because for women the emotions are so different”. This no longer sounded like insecurity, but rather like a philosophical argument; and so he waited for a possible challenge to the blanket nature of a proposition like “for all women”. Out of courtesy, of course; she knew Eudoxia to know him better. Standing up and gradually moving her, he offered a corollary: “Which is of course is the same as saying that it’s different for men.” 

Eudoxia was sitting on the closed toilet lid, legs held together by her arms, messing with her toenails. She purred, avoiding his gaze; he took it as a sign to go on with his monolog.

“For men there’s always an element of conquest and possession; even the physical act is a savage gesture”, continued Epistemon, first agitated, then softer: “Even if it follows from love.” 

Again this. “But I didn’t expect you to love me. You told me in so many–” interspersed Eudoxia before he resumed talking.

This derailed Epistemon’s line of thought.  He had to defend himself — “But I do love you. For your wisdom, and also for your physical form. There are so few–“.  Epistemon had to stop mid-sentence to think of how to return to his difficult point. He rubbed his face out of frustration. She buried her head between her knees. Enough silence passed that a garbage truck could be heard in the distance.

Finally: “You love me like you love mankind.”

“I hate mankind. I love men. Some men. In the universal sense of the word ‘Man’, which you know I refuse to abandon. And–“

“I know you see wisdom in me”, interrupted Eudoxia, determined to hold him to the thread.

“And physical beauty”. Epistemon hadn’t offered this as a compliment, but it made Eudoxia blush. Her looks were, of course, what people and men in particular (not in the “universal sense”) first knew of her — but together with  Epistemon they had analyzed and reduced her primal attractiveness to its elementary components. There was her romantic beauty, the cloudy fascination with the fineness of her; there was her reproductive fitness, measured in ratios and correlations; there was her grace, which was a performative virtue in disguise — the way she exerted those raw elements and made them whole. Epistemon’s deconstructive gaze amused her: it transformed the essential fragility of beautiful women into a gaggle of superpowers.

Yet this sudden wholesale appreciation was unexpectedly, maybe unthinkably flattering. She let her guard down and took her shot at cutting through Epistemon’s winding, self-loathing, well, speech. Rather than just do Simplicia for his Salviatti, she spoke from the heart.

“But you don’t love me in the way couples do.”

“I’ll have you know that I haven’t slept with anyone else for years.” Now, this was a low punch. Eudoxia did have a handful of lovers, powerful men — but not like him. Not like Epistemon.

“Well I have. I’m too pretty and too normal! But every time or almost every time I wished it could have been you. Why can’t we just–” Eudoxia stopped herself just short from crying. He knew about her needs. The bitterness of this postcoital philosophizing was so familiar. But she was also invested. She couldn’t just tell him to cut the crap and drive him out of her apartment.

“But I can’t. With that kind of love comes illusion. Lies. The universe lies to you. Epistemon cannot be compromised. Having haracteristiscally caught himself being grandiose, he stopped also his rhetorically grand body motions. His eyes implored it’s-not-you-it’s-me to her eyes. “I cannot be compromised. There is too much at stake.”

Eudoxia tried to rationalize — “Even if you are compromised, even if you die. The world will go on, Epistemon.  That sacrificial–”  Now this made Epistemon uncharacteristically angry and jealous, although he tried to hide it by avoiding her gaze. If there was anything true, it was that Epistemon is important. Maybe not an immense being. Maybe a bad lover.

She tried a course correction: “Epistemon, if you die I literally, literally die too. Some monstrous other may try to use my beauty for horrifically stupid purposes, but it won’t be me. It won’t have my, my–” 

Your grace”, completed Epistemon. “The performative virtue that enacts your attractiveness”.

“I can’t help it if I’m sexy”, she cooed. “Sexy is something you do, not something you are”, he replied, warmly, this time intending it as a compliment.

Eudoxia was tired. Epistemon was also tired, but Eudoxia had for long managed a heart always about to break. “So what are we fighting about?” 

Epistemon relented. “For men, sex is a conquest. I need to own you.”  

“I want you to own me. But you need to settle down.”, she argued, standing up as if to say “I want to move with this already, I’m ready”.

“If I settle down I’ll be like those others you seduce. It will never be the happy marriage of Epistemon and Eudoxia. We’ll be transformed”,  he explained, feeling pulled to the ground as if gravity came in waves.

“All couples transform”. This is the structure of our fights, she thought, — Epistemon the concept fog, Eudoxia the beacon of clarity. Clearly they had been put together for each other.

“But there’s only one Epistemon and one Eudoxia”.

Eudoxia flew into a rage at hearing this. So many years of frustration and heartache to support this tragic self-importance, so much pretend-powerlesness — like there was anything Eudoxia and Epistemon couldn’t do. She wanted to shriek; she wanted to rip her own skin out. But instead she grabbed Epistemon by the hair and bashed his head against the kitchen sink, again and again and again until she heard bones cracking.

When Eudoxia came to herself, her hands were so bloody that she couldn’t operate a touchscreen phone. She was reduced to screaming for help. And help came: Epiphron, one of Eudoxia’s occasional lovers, had heard the screams and was just arrived to see if she was ok.

Despite having felt his spine curl up a little with jealousy at seeing Eudoxia with Epistemon, Epiphron was quick to the action: he quickly instructed Eudoxia and both carried him to his car, dragging his feet. Eudoxia sat on the back with Epistemon, filled with regret and sadness.

Flashing briefly into consciousness, Epistemon whispered to Eudoxia — “Blame Epiphron”, quickly passing out again. In another brief flash, “Marry me”. Eudoxia was horrified by Epistemon’s deformed appearance, much of the right side of his skull having been bashed in. Did she finally change him? Was he proposing they lie and frame the innocent man who was saving him?

Eudoxia suddenly didn’t love Epistemon anymore. But she married him, out of a sense of fate. Thereafter everytime they had sex Epistemon announced — “I’m good”.