Nicht dieser Töne

I. 

What stands out the most about Grammarly, the style checker I’ve been using in hopes of writing intelligible text for the other thing, is its steadfast refusal to accept “Theory…” as an indeterminate object of discourse.

I’ve had, in casual conversation, many instances where theory is expected to be always transitive, and generally towards a specific hypothesis (“the theory that Polish jazz reflects a cerebral misunderstanding of its American sources”). On asemic horizon we say — everyone together now — theory is the theory of generic structure. Infinite recursion fixes the grammar (it is now “the theory” of something, namely “the theory of the theory…”). But it leaves much unsaid.

Despite all of its feverish juggling of neologisms (technical terms, each having a specific meaning), theory as practiced in asemic horizon is not an entirely new pursuit. We’re more inspired by Heino Engel’s Tragsysteme than by Adorno or Habermas; but it’s hard to deny their priority and their usefulness in making other people to understand what we mean by “theory”. I’d rather have you read Gilles Grelet, but what is he saying to an audience (even the freakish readership of asemic horizon) that isn’t in love with theory already?

The other thing is an attempt to communicate theory with “normies”. The risk of that venture is not being able to cleanly differentiate what K-Hole means by “acting basic” and “normcore” — roughly, the blend-in mimicry of leaf insects versus the outward movement towards “opportunities for strategic misunderstanding”. If theory is ever going to be valuable to normies, that’ll be because there are none. This is my standard case against incels and other such outcasts: STFU and dress normal. A beautiful paradox: there is no normalcy, just the ongoing awkwardness that makes us grab on the available equipment (and here we very literally mean what Heidegger means by das Zeug). This equipment produces an effect of tactical normalcy, itself an attempt to pro-duce (to bring into the world) the ambient conditions of prosocial connection.

II.

The other thing we have at times claimed theory to be is: a praxis of intelligibility. It’s ultimately this that motivates the other thing — I sprinkle it liberally with notions that I can get paid for this if I play my cards right (and maybe I can, that’s none of your business), but the unlimited freedom afforded by asemic horizon is paid in blood with a descent towards irrelevance. We’ve explored the ways in which this descent ultimately leads to the switcheroo (ultimate genericity translated to ultimate generality at the critical moment) and to General Axiology. 

Of course, the way out is through, but this is a very hard slog, and my repeated attempts to hang theory on some sort of formalism (SATPLAN, graph physics, Girardian logic) have produced more demands towards the formalism — this is like buying a clothesline and having to stand pulling on it until your shirts are dry. Theory only progresses by making little knots and little hooks — the points de capiton (faux lesbians, Crystal Castles, Misha the Bear, McKenosha yadda yadda). These have always had a calculated clickbait effect — I do want more readers; maybe these will have to come from the other thing — but they’re also fun and keep your spine straight as you fall down the great water slide that’s the genericity of genericities. 

III. 

Here’s a provocation: incels have a right to get laid. (I might have to freeze a definition that excludes people who have had sexual experience.)

The argument for this is twofold. First, incels have a right to get laid by whatever they imagine women to be (increasingly this takes a disturbing deantropic trend towards cartoons). Sex with imaginary women can be accomplished single-handedly, and for (physical, even) health reasons it’s often recommended (at least in the absence of real partners). The axiological trouble begins when real people are coerced in some fashion (deepfakes being a relatively nonviolent alternative to the old, worse ways) into pretend-playing to be imaginary women. Only then moral concerns come into play. This also neatly illustrates the difference between ethics and morality; inceldom is, to begin with, an ethical shortcoming. 

Second, incels have the right to get laid by real women — provided they’re able to connect with real women as such. “Consent” applies to a weaker formulation of this problem that we intend to sidestep altogether: forcing (or cajoling, blackmailing, etc) someone into sexual contact fundamentally disconnects you from them. The mystery of inceldom (particularly from the incel’s point of view) is that they can’t get women; but “getting women” means “being with women”. Seduction tricks are parlor tricks; attractiveness helps in seduction because sexuality can’t be unraveled from physical presence, but seduction is literally the subtractive counterpart of pro-duction — it means “to hide”. Typical incel blunders (at least as widely mocked on the internet) have to do with running directly into the attractive (and largely imaginary) thing, too much, too fast. “Negging” teaches them to do otherwise, but these people invariably overcorrect and miss their shot. Incels never really meet real women. 

The best advice for incels is, as above, STFU, dress normal. But this should recapitulate everything we’ve said about normalcy as a phenomenon of misinterpretation. Les non-dupes errent; what anyone wants is impossible; you misread it into them, they misread it into you. That’s how seduction works: you dress normal, then people misunderstand you.  Everyone is wrongly convinced that their ultimate value as humans lies in their agalma, but by virtue of feeling they don’t have much else to offer, incels are way too protective of the inner good person they think they are — and resent that others don’t see it. Thus the great virtue of attractiveness: people who are hot are able to signal their value in all sorts of ambiguous (and low-key) ways, while those who need to produce value-signaling effects that, paradoxically, hamper their ability to be ambiguous and get mismatches.

To be clear: this isn’t relationship advice. 

IV. 

Theory is seductive to the extent people misunderstand it. If I have to put forward a denunciation of, e.g. Austrian economics (which has happened), this loses some people. Of course, “just be more ambiguous” is about as useful as “just be more attractive”. There’s some constraints (the quability conditions of theory) that simply can’t be fucked with; and, of course, on asemic horizon you’re watching it happen live. Watching a nude wo/man taking showers over and over in a loop isn’t that erotic after a while. 

Going for “normies” in the other thing is a different affair. Dressing normal is challenging for a project that’s ultimately (however obscurely) revolutionary. There’s great sincerity in that project: we keep evoking Crystal Castles yadda yadda but theory needs a dozen Jairwaves to really emerge as a valuable pursuit in its own right. Everything that’s held to be valuable is already in/part of an axiological structure. And as much as we need to understand them, this process also has much to give back in terms of a clearer discernment of its structure, its dynamics, its tempo, diegesis, physics, scenarios…

Drawbridges

In the beginning there was Logos. Christian Bibles tend to translate this to the “Word”, or maybe the “Verb”. But Wiktionary tell us λόγος also means “speech, oration, discourse, quote, story, study, ratio, calculation, reason”. It further descends from the verbal phrase λέγω — I say or think. Insofar as logic is (quite literally) that which pertain to logos, it ultimately refers to that which can be said or thought. Our philosophical influences teach that, much like anything else in the Mechanosphere, the Said or the Thought are both operated in two movements — one of selection and one of consolidation. This is how the same word comes to mean both “oration” and “calculation”.

Logic is therefore twofold: a matter of production, and a matter of arrangement. This is so even in the 20th-century Tarskian program. The better logicians since then, such as Jean-Yves Girard, have pressed the issue of formatting. But the chrematistic promise of mathematics is to find invariants that hold for any representation within an equivalence class (e.g. up to isomorphisms or order-preserving transformations). The wages of abstraction are emancipation from the format. For example: 19th-century economists had to speak in bushels of this versus bushels of that, whereas modern mathematical economists can speak in measure spaces — therefore obtaining study, calculation and even oratory without quotes and ratios. In the Tarskian program speech and discourse should also vanish, subsumed under the mightier and mightier program of reason. There’s no reason why this shouldn’t work, but also no reason why it should. The proof is in the pudding; the pudding is in the eye of the beholder; the metaphor is a metaphor for the metaphor.

A philosophy of mathematics only emerges when philosophers fixate on mathematics as an object of philosophical inquiry. On its own, mathematics is fine; a philosopher who interviews a mathematician might come away with some kind of unstable “strategic platonism” or as well-gatekept but frank social construction — but these are philosophical, not mathematical issues. This is in stark distinction with science, which imports (in the precise sense that computer programmers are used to) a black-boxed metaphysics of materialist stabilism.

Whenever science has tried to give a scientific veneer to this imported metaphysics, it has looked childish: the agitating material cause of gravity is christened “the God particle” because, well, it causes stuff to clump together. (It takes a philosopher to imagine a world that is motion first — where differential equations are not solved anymore than “x=x” is in the stabilist’s gut) Mathematics, on the other hand, embarrasses itself only when it forgets the μάθημα — its royal knowledgeness — and tries to prove itself in an underlying true arrangement of symbols (the logic that would underwrite it). A delicious paradox — its deliciousness being that it’s no paradox at all: mathematics, which is “socially constructed”, exists anyway, like the natural course of a river. Meanwhile science might have so far scraped the tip of a rock and our theoparticles maybe special cases of special cases, contrived like epicycles and possibly very unlike the science of eventual receivers of the Voyager Golden Record.

This is why our message to the stars needs always to begin with Bach. It tells eventual interlocutors that we’re aware of the μάθημα, that it has emerged in some form in our midst. But also in the general case — there’s no harder or fraught with possibilities for error and self-delusion alternative to bringing our μάθημα to enemies or strangers of any kind. Take the arena of politics: how long until we stop pretending to have facts and figures and a tentative science of governance? Unless much of the general populace is evil (and actually, even then), there’s a raw (not royal: there is only one mathematics) knowledgeness to their points of view. What is it? Jazz musicians are interested in Chopin, photographers in Rothko, algebraic topologists in algebraic geometry. Surely enough, and exactly like in mathematics, not every raw insight has μάθημα to it — this is the point of true proofs in mathematics, to establish true theorems with true corollaries. Accessing the knowledgeness in situations requires the painful and frustrating act of thinking. But that’s precisely God’s one weird trick to transcendence and maybe even general axiology.

Fooled by convexity xxl

The battle cry of applied mathematics is: all models are wrong, some are useful. This is a barbarously ambiguous creed, and might apply to miniature models (like model trains, which try to reproduce much of the excitement and dynamics of real trains at a fraction of the cost) and instance models (like car models; or better yet, like natural numbers, which are supposed to implement Peano’s axioms, but in practice falter — who the hell looks at 1645003 golf balls and is able to produce 1645004 balls, even in imagination). “Dialectics” is a model in both senses: it’s (i) a crude oversimplification of history that does render some of its large-scale features visible, and (ii) an instance of an underlying logical structure (i.e. an arrangement of terms that yields reliable arguments).

Dialectics-as-model-train is wrong because it can’t account for the immense complexity of reality. But it does render visible the notion that situations contain contradictions. A Candidean quasidarwinism might argue, contrariwise, that actual ongoing situations are resolutions rather than problems — this is a common misreading of Chesterton’s fence. But contradictions are tense and unstable: they require outside energy to sustain. Therefore the model train of dialectics suggests that these have dynamical tendencies that will — in unspecified tempo — necessarily play themselves out to sublation (a kind of nonresolved resolution). This is how McKenosha appeared to many as a tipping point towards Trumpism: the contradictions in liberal politics were producing this horrifying scenario of revolutionary violence, and sublative resolutions couldn’t possibly come from within liberal politics. How did this not happen?

Dialectics-as-car-model is wrong because no actual object in the real world can obey axioms (interestingly enough, in Greek, axiomatikos means “police officer”; axiomatics violently enforces axiologies from the outside). But insofar the real object is approximately a model (i.e. satisfies the axiomatics), legible and reliable forms of argumentation are available for it. Since dialectics satisfies an endothermic internal logic where causality is subordinated to the conditions of stasis, it tells us something about the kinematic properties of dialectical contradictions. Kinematics is the study of motion as abstracted from its causal forces; a simple example is considering whether an object will fall off your table in light of its inherent center of gravity. McKenosha and Jairwave have, perhaps, counterintuitively, striking similarities in their kinematic configurations; they’re not, however, immersed in the similar force fields, and are obviously very different processes when seen as integral objects of analysis rather than kinematic models.

Clearly, different views correspond to different meanings of the word model, rigorously speaking: in one, models are downsampled from reality, while in the other models are upsampled from axiomatics. Or, in other words: in the first, models are built to be adequate to the “other thing”, while in the second, the “other thing” is built to be adequate to them. But theory advances by taking words literally and embracing such semantic collisions. This is how we arrive at a dual (dynamic/kinematic) understanding of dialectics, after all.

To the point: my understanding is that McKenosha failed to promote Trump to a position of inevitability (as the only possible sublative resolution) because the kinematics were all wrong. To begin with, the apparent energy (and one could, but does not need to make use of its insanity) of McKenosha is out of joint. It’s built as the antithesis to protofascism and white supremacy, and probably engineered to propagate an ipso facto that this “thesis” it opposes actually exists. But it clearly doesn’t. It’s a reaction toward something that isn’t there, by all appearances devised to simulate it through indirect effects (much like Blackbeard would produce the effect of extreme violence to scare people into fleeing). Therefore it can appear as large and important, but can’t achieve any concrete political goals — it’s batting at ghosts and holograms. I know people get hurt in these episodes, but people get scared at Disneyland rides too.

A straight case where the kinematics does work is the tension between secularism and biblical religion in American culture and politics, which is there and ultimately derives from unresolved contradictions that might date back to Aquinas and the absorption of Aristotle, Avicenna and Averroes into the heart of Christendom. Of course, slavery in America is a root contradiction of the American system that keeps evolving (through a civil war, deportation to Liberia, Jim Crow, “Crow Jim” in jazz, Rosa Parks and so on and so on). But the configuration it leads to is not one that makes McKenosha a model of politics to come: American descendants of slavery (ADOS — this is a term being used in woke spaces, and it’s pretty good!) are, on average, poorer in most valuable outcomes, but their culture has come to dominate American music. There’s also extreme inequality within the ADOS population, and enough wealth that woke claims that incel shooter Eliot Rodgers has privilege because he’s white collapse immediately if realized.

Yes, the worry that this risible current will continue to expand in power and change the terms of discourse is legitimate. But this does not follow from dialectics in any clear way. The ratchet and “the long march through the institutions” and such other phenomena can be modeled, with some degree of accuracy, in dialectics. But then the contradictions they trace back to are not coextensive with the ones that produce Trumpism and its demise; that is, the axiomatics to which they are adequate are similar but not at all equivalent.

So what was Trumpism anyway? In the framework of dialectics, it was a response to something. A low-hanging candidate is the contradictory logical structure of “neoliberalism” as personified in Obama, a dr. Manhattan kind of figure that presented himself as coming from the left and even enacted some policy towards left concerns — while accelerating the WBush program of global war and acting full-time in the service of Capital. Trump, on the other hand, came, to whatever he has, as a hustler. A billionaire loved by the working class, why not? In Trump we see much more clearly the second sense of model — he appears to have known by instinct that there was something (some axiomatics) he satisfied (whether steaks, casinos or right-populism); therefore he rises to power by capturing the wind, extending his arms like a kite. This is obviously not a fascist. And therefore not someone who can credibly fight something that claims to be an antifa rebellion.

Now, a great unknown is whether McKenosha will continue burning in a Biden presidency. Some commentators seem to think that, because it’s specifically anti-Trump, it should die as the chaotic climate of 2020 dies down too. But riots tend to arise in regions already controlled by the Blue Party; it’s strange to believe that a Blue President would change this. After all, “white supremacy” is a wide, all-encompassing system and mr. Biden too is an old creepy white dude. On the contrary, a cultural climate that continues to coddle McKenosha will strengthen it. The ironic “Mc” prefix will eventually fall off. The black irony of the “ratchet” is that all on the Left eventually find themselves on the Right.

Then, because the kinematics of McKenosha are all wrong, it can only sustain itself by continued energy input (read: money!) from the outside. At this juncture, it’s how it would quickly die: the bail funds dry out and social media agitators go unpaid. McKenosha isn’t real — but it’s in the dynamical preconditions for fascism (as brought to live by fervent anti-fa desire) to arise. We’re talking 2024 here.

Political actors who do wish to systematically oppose the possibility of fascism would do well to study the quability conditions of McKenosha. I have a day job, but enough free time that I can consult. Ring me!

We have never been neoliberals

Standard economics is denounced as a political program in disguise; and one that both implies and requires a greedy individualistic outlook on social life. The former may as well be true, insofar economic policies can be neatly divided between those that assume standard economics and those (mostly in third world shitholes) that reject it. But the latter is wrong.

An Econ 101 class will teach you that the field is divided in two more or less independent disciplines, Macro and Microeconomics. The object of Macro is ultimately the Dasein of social life as bounded by the reach of policy. It speaks in moods and fears. As a theory, it’s pretty much the primus inter pares of systems theory; it encompasses everything from mineralogy to demography as stylized feedback loops that actually explain the world. On the other hand, micro as a theory says nothing about individuals at all; it speaks in choice structures that (in the version taught in undergrad) are reconciled by an Auctioneer (in Lacan-speak, the point de capiton; in Deleuze-speak, the Virtual). Nothing about this rejects inconsistent decision-making or even multiple personalities. If I’m different persons when drunk or sober, manic or depressive — I’m still selling my time and buying consumer goods, albeit at possibly highly unequal rates.

Indeed, read correctly, the technical lemmata of micro-level theory that prove the inconsistency of aggregate demand and choice (in stark contrast to the non fingo attitude of macroeconomics toward these things) also pose hard constraints on the possibility of individuation itself. The political program of neoliberalism is distinguished from nationalistic, class-interest or otherwise collectivistic programs because it claims that the smallest minority is the individual. But this is actually false: if I’m one person at work, one person as a parent, one person when drunk and one person when manic, guess what: boom, Arrow’s impossibility theorem applies. There’s no I there that can vote. May I insist, this follows straightforwardly from how micro theory understands choice (101 textbooks say “agents”, not “people”; and a deep dive will reveal that what is rigorously meant is agencies), and from the axioms in Arrow’s theorem.

This is what grand axiology does (in this case, an axiology built around the concept of choice, which is probably not fully general): it “de-necessitates” it’s supposed causability chains (sovereign individuality, and worse yet, “rational” choice — a word improperly confused with Enlightenment ideals). Now: micro theory at one point in the 1920s was being used to argue that scientific socialist planning was indeed possible if we could only have means to simulate the secret sauce of market economics. This didn’t pan out (as the more reasonable linear programming project of Kantorovich also didn’t back in the USSR); but did neoliberalism? For a couple of glorious years, even Byte magazine explained that on the Internet one has countless personas, but this, too, didn’t last for long. As it turns out, most people seem to value greatly a kind of continuity between their offline “persona” and their online presence; and more generally a continuity between a group-belonging that warrants their values and the truth of their morality.

Of course: neoliberalism was also a power grab. But so was 20th-century unionism. From a tentative (but frail and not fully thought out) higher-axiology vantage point, it would seem that these press the question of how you, the reader, should value yourself more: as consumer or as worker. In each case, the power grab is enabled by the kind of power it gives you. But neoliberalism (and this is counteracted somewhat by other forces allied to the neoliberal movement, such as cultural and religious conservatism) seems to offer the power to shatter the mirror that produces the illusion of a cohesive identity. You don’t go to the market and say “as a philosopher I want these shoes; as a scientist I want this cutler set whose heft feels like a restaurant’s”. Something disorganized in you wants them. This is also, of course, why drugs disseminate in common circles: you no longer have to be a decadent poet to acquire, as such, some opium.

A Freudian would, at this point, conclude that neoliberal consumerism produces a psychological regression to toddlerhood, but this smuggles strange, alienated-adult values into the word “regression”. Consumerism does seem to heighten (here I’m resorting more to my experience, but you’ll validate it with yours) immature tendencies: people fight over parking lot spaces at malls, it’s awful. But this isn’t infantilism per se, many kids are nice and cooperative by default.

In contradistinction unionism (or whatever new movement that wants to give you power as an X-type person — yes, much of this applies to McKenosha) appeals to a kind of double adulthood where not only you’re endowed with a mature adult socialization, but also you’re able to see the union as the doubly adult body that regulates its relative infantile parts by binding them to the collective contract.

But there’s different approaches to infantile regression and nested adult/adult infancy hierarchies both. Politically motivated trolls (frogs and clowns and all that) employ utterly childish aesthetics and behavior to question group-inflicted adulthood-structures. Why does Pepe say “lol Hillary” and sides with Trump, and not the opposite? Well, isn’t it pathetic how she had to stand back to give way to Obama and waited patiently for her turn — fairly given to her by the adult-of-adult bodies (the party) and the adult that regulates them (political interests at large in the equilibrium producing the stable party)? Trump, on the other hand, launches his entire political career babbling like a toddler about Mexican rapists, but ten days later decides (in a sudden moment of insight while eating faux-Mexican food) he loves them. But Trump (to trust most of my American friends, about 3/4 of them) is no toddler — no toddler can be evil.

As for the nested adulthood structure where the group is the adult that regulates its children… isn’t this how the hierarchy (maybe even the lattice/poset) of larger and smaller axiologies works? In general axiology we’re maximally mature and agree on the most important and generic issues of theory and praxis. Of course, the “trick” here is that, while we’re promised “infinite power” in general axiology, there’s no going up in a corporate ladder, no gradual acquisition of power (that both implies and requires power grabs elsewhere). This is why a toddler-like attitude may be required to explore systems of value and valuable means to acquire them: a refusal of adulthood as submission to the higher adulthood of groups, but rather an experimental and naive (even if deadly serious, as children often are in their games of imagination) openness to the Situation.

On a personal note, this is also why I (despite all my conservative adult instincts) remain a revolutionary, and theory remains a revolutionary project.

Elitism

I.

The outstanding problem of civilization is the hoi polloi. As many other matters that interest us, civilization is an axiological affair. It affirms that certain things are valuable (for example, science) and exposes the valuable means (scientific method) of producing valuable things (scientific works). But (again, for example) science is not locum suum: it must be produced somewhere and by something. The alchemy of systems theory is that these are described as the same process and the same thing. But this only dislocates the problem of material causability to the setting (both more abstract and more concrete) where it interacts with the general conditions that make it causable. It is in this setting that the hoi polloi appears as an axiological concern: not everyone who shares in the higher-level axiologies (that produce the quability conditions of science) is able to understand science. The higher-level axiologies are quability conditions on the higher-level chrematistics: no science, no antibiotics. But what links one and the other is obscure, and quability needs to deploy a whole lot of obscurantism (priestly robes, institutions) to keep chrematistics working. All of this is true of art, religion, philosophy, museums.

All of this is also neatly genericizable. Systems theory exposes the quability conditions on quability conditions, generically. For in every example referred or alluded to above, systems theory enables the “switcheroo” between (force of) causability and (constraints on) quability. This does not solve the problem of the hoi polloi at all, but it hints at the radical transform (the image I want to evoke is the Laplace transform, but maybe the best analogy is a change of measure) on actual ongoing affairs that is needed in order for elitism to function. The closest we have to a clear program is: theory is the theory of generic structure. But to become operational, theory must present the technical means for reparameterizing (much like the Laplace transform exchanges time for interest rates) the symbolic deadlocks that prevent us from otherwise speaking of values frankly.

If, following standard conservative theory, politics has to do with the edges that separate friend from foe, the symbolic deadlock has to do with political identification. If, as in standard liberal (details vary) theory, politics has to do with the structure that society consents to structure itself, then political identification is universal. Identification is a judgement with subject and object: I judge mr. Moldbug to be somewhat right of center; some may think otherwise. But our basic tools for surving the contractarian crush — experienced firsthand in every country that sees regular regime changes, from France to Brazil — have all to do with the flattening of identification: thus I will claim to be a revolutionary even if my text often has a reactionary mouthfeel. More simply put: to survive the pending contractarian crush, one must harden an identity that spans at least some of your habitual territory. Thereafter the identity does the speaking for us. Of course, this is where they squeeze you for cash: if you’re an American who made a point of prioritizing the melioration of the “Black condition”, then mr. Ibram has got your tongue. Worse yet, if as a first-worlder you’ve had too much of a conscience for the bitter fruit of colonization, you get a deracinated version of American antiracism. This is the point where Edinburgh renames its David Hume college building after possible-overdose-victim George Floyd.

I have nothing to say about a particular incident like this: you already know how to feel. I know how I feel — but that’s not theory. And I’m a theorist; I deal in theory.

II.

“Woke” is fundamentally a feeling. Good old /r/atheism was naive enough to say as much in their “… and in this moment I’m euphoric” declaration. One could add the qualification that the feeling of woke has to do with being euphoric at social injustice (therefore the apparent manifestation of euphoria as rage), but this seems accidental at best. Surely, manifestations of woke that echo the standard Left scenarios will more easily seep through the institutional fabric on which elitism is deployed, but ratheism is counter-evidence to the identification of woke with its overt claims. Remember, ratheists at one point were suing for the material manifestation of their claim to relevance (by removing religious imagery from public buildings). If they did so through the tortuous circuitry of the courts, it’s not because they didn’t feel justified to go ahead and take religious statues down on their own authority; it’s because no one would have their back — not unconditionally. Currently circulating analogies with the Chinese Cultural Revolution feel a little out of context, but do a lot to illustrate the apparently-uncontrollable nature of woke. To me, the CCR is very alien; I understood very little of e.g. Hua Linshan’s autobiography: the mass psychology it depicts is nothing like I’ve had a direct knowledge of. (I understand McKenosha, on the other hand, viscerally so). I have to guess it’d be actually easier to steer woke toward Beijingcore mass-control politics than it would be to have them accept the strange passions of the Cultural Revolution.

If woke is a feeling, how is it steered at all? This is kind of legible in the news itself, isn’t it? Woke confesses itself with passion. It’s easy to see who’s wholeheartedly in its corner and who apologizes for it in less direct ways. Furthermore: Proud Boys (which always sounded like something out of Achewood) aside, the opponents of current woke causes are never themselves woke. Woke is left-leaning due to the institutional engineering that continually tagets it; but then, as mr. Moldbug and many others have amply documented, everything is targeted by the “Ratchet” — the everpresent complex of forces that stretches the span of politics to the left, only and always. To the extent that woke is even noticeable, it must exceed the natural left-drift of constitutional politics. But woke does not read like a conspiracy, at least not in the generic case: it could be that the Biden campaign has (in a strategy that evades my comprehension, but may well give results) fanned the flames of McKenosha, but this does not explain Edinburgh. Nor does it Brazil, where now football broadcasts are preceded by “Ubuntu Football Club” hagiographies of Black guys who were already widely (and correctly) admired. What political goal is addressed by re-presenting the story of Washington and Assis, telepathic non-twins who were crack strikers in the 1980s, as a story of black men under racial injustice?

Here we must again invoke the switcheroo: on the contrary, little is achieved by getting riled up about the “long march through the institutions” and the drip-feed (Brazilians say: drip by drip, soft water can drill holes through hard stone) of woke cultural presure. A causability structure materially enables woke, but we must become able to focus on the system dynamics that enables its quability conditions. After all: if woke was a virus, the task would be to understand contagion and immune response; if it was an earthquake, to map fractures in tectonic sheets and points of possible shock; if it was an alien invader, to learn what are we — what value we have — in their eyes, and how our planet is in the quability conditions for their larger goals. If these alien invaders were anthropomorphic, we would further have to understand how they impact the structure of our desires and fantasies. We might even have to seduce some of them, see what they’re like in the sack.

III.

Talk of “Cultural Revolution” conflates the euphoric energy of the momentarily empowered wokish youth, and the cynical longer-term goals at the top echelons of the Revolution. In other words, it conflates utter axiologic instability, at one level, with the tectonic, thousand-year thinking of the larger axiology. The “cultural revolution” itself was a sudden and short-lived moment of distension, more similar to Woodstock than anything in our peak-historical moment. Unsurprisingly, whatever “woke” does is profoundly unsurprising and derivative of the ec-static 1960s. Likewise, the fact that this utter lack of imagination has some impact at all with the institutions that woke critiques is commonly associated with the presence of once-rebel boomers in decision-making chairs. Therefore Edinburgh University’s attitudes have probably more to do with lingering nostalgia for the Rolling Stones than any learned appreciation of America woke unrest. In other words: Edinburgh falls prey to woke’s utter lack of imagination because of its own utter lack of imagination. This is fundamentally a failure of elites. McKenosha burns simply because rioters haven’t been hit with the water cannons. Mayors and decision-makers and probably a majority of cops regard the riots with deep (sometimes mixed, sometimes not) feelings of wish fulfillment. I mean, the whole thing sucks — capitalism, electoral democracy, everything sucks. It sucked when I was 20 and it still sucks now — but now I’ve had opportunities to make a dent, and have I?

In a previous generation, the name for this utter lack of imagination was “middlebrow”. It was Rachmaninoff over Hindemith, Ravel’s Bolero over Ravel’s La Valse. Carnap and Elliot and Schoenberg were acutely aware of the heavy baggage of civilization (and its constant potential for horror), but were Cronkite, Ginsberg and Hendrix? Middlebrow was an intermediate step in high culture’s loss of meaning; it made the ritual motions (such as piano virtuosity) of high culture but couldn’t see the once-transcendent nature of high culture. Standing on the shoulders of giants was difficult (slippery: ever heard the story where Heidegger becomes a temporary Nazi?) and dizzying; middlebrow is where high culture sits and starts to slip. Of course, culture is a vortex: in the same few decades separating Whitehead and Barry Manilow, jazz emerges from minstrelsy (low-brow humor) to highly abstract art-form. But have current Black mayors and leaders listened carefully to Cecil Taylor’s “Air”? Do they have the necessary wingspan to meaningfully react to repeat scenarios from their own youth?

From this distance, the problem is no longer whether the Cathedral creates woke insurrectionary theater, or whether it leaves the speaking classes at the mercy of random angry youths. It is: how do we establish a valuable structure and produce the valuable means to maintain it? What is the axiological infrastructure needed so that woke ends up doing (even if indirectly and involuntarily) good? What intermediate questions must be addressed by a theory that spans, in this way, the abstract vectors of civilization?

McKenosha

US politics seems now consumed again a modernistic insurrection. Historical (rather than theoretical) postmodernity is a ruling order of depersonalized and delocalized actors connected by (mostly abstract) business transactions. But the interests of business are, contra Marx, most of the time out of sync with each other; the system of global liberalism does not march in lockstep. This renders it fundamentally vulnerable to external synchronizing factors. Synchronization signifies: “fire together, wire together”.

Consider Q, which is to say, Sokal politics rebooted. Sokalian modernity was epitomized by the purity of science, mishandled by sophistic barbarians; Q-modernity is epitomized by the purity of children, menaced by pedophile networks. This is also the case of McKenosha, where Wakanda is destroyed by white supremacy. Of course, “we have never been modern”; the 16- and 17-year olds abused by Epstein have never been children (yet: exploitation of teens by grown adults was, in the past, held in check by sexual repression; the pill ruins everything). Q is validated by the deracinating process of “globalist” politics that joins the Clintons to British royalty both in Pleasure Island and the WTO. In the very same way, McKenosha is validated by the way the urban warfare cookie crumbles.

But pay attention, what matters each time is not the content of their fantasies and goals, but their resonance to ongoing events. Of course, under the regime of peak history, almost every event is ongoing; the count of finished or future events is exceedingly small. To single out police violence (or the discovery of lolita sex slaves; or whatever else) risks endorsing the very availability-heuristics that blinds and/or favors the resonance of Q or McKenosha. Theory is drowned by the deafening beat of these threads — themselves out of sync with each other, save for the quilting point that synchronizes and signifies them: Trump.

Still, the resonance to their resonance is strange and invites scrutiny. American-style antiracism goes global; if you, in Croatia or Guatemala, didn’t know quite for sure who were your local elites, you can tell by their stilted FIFA-style locution on this matter. This is even stranger in places like Brazil which have their own (close to orthogonal to the US configuration) issues that don’t naturally fit the Nike/BLM mold. McKenosha is synchronized by law enforcement excess, and social engineering agencies throughout the world are synchronized by McKenosha. In two years more, racial exploitation in Brazil will have been fully erased by a poor dublagem of its Hollywood counterpart. How can Zumbi, the slave-owning Black king of the Palmares rebellion, ever compete with Black Panther? Wakanda further erases recent ethnic cleansing in Africa, Tutsis, pygmies. American culture seems to binge-eat on modernity and excrete baudrillardian postmodern simulacra.

On the other hand, Q also seems to be going global. This should be puzzling, since Q is the theory that mr. Trump has been effecting a secret-in-plain-sight agenda to purge elite pedophiles and undo manifold conspiracies that kept people (temporarily embarassed Free People) down. But while McKenosha demands a single-minded vision of white supremacy as structurally integral conspiracy, Q is additive and adhesive; it integrates the “post-rational” thinking of MLM semicults and radical, Alexander Supertramp-type individualists alike, and many more. In Germany, we’re told, Q is all about how the elite lies about Covid. And while McKenosha can, in principle, be refuted with relative simplicity (if the arena for refutations were ever set up), Q is fluid, distributed and barely synchronizing enough to subsist. McKenosha is a single Cartesian proposition; it is feared for its quick Maoist rise; but it’s ultimately brittle. To survive, it will need increasing propping up by social engineering agencies in the US itself, which will have to look to the world for best practices.

I’d like to tell you to hold your breath until it blows over, but under conditions of peak history, it won’t. Nothing ever will. The way out is to the top. Loudness will beat loudness until (in the asemic horizon) nothing is signifiable anymore.

TikTok

I

Why does TikTok come from China?

The opening ceremony for the 1980 Moscow Olympics featured a message from space and almost two hours of dances from the manifold peoples of the Soviet world, from Cossack to Khirghiz. The closing ceremony featured a bear-shaped balloon who flew high and then higher than high. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics opened with kids singing a Diana Ross song and closed with Lionel Ritchie.

YouTube recordings of the 1980s are also notable for going silent during the minutes allotted for commercials in the rest of the world.

The term “the long tail” was coined to designate something about internet culture that was different from commercial celebrity culture. Cultural power was still a power law, but lower cost of production and access to distribution meant we could see more of the power law. The unspoken implication is that every tail of a power law is also a local power law with less amplitude. The point was to discover and make money out of local celebrity cultures; intensify power law dynamics across the niches.

Of course everything here — Misha the bear versus Billboard #1 hits, peasant dances versus ephebophilic “cheerleading” — has to do with axiologies.

This blogger makes (somewhat muddedly; but it’s in the title too) the point that TikTok eschews the “social” (really, influencer) graph omnipresent (even if sometimes subdued by user interfaces) in the latest technology offerings. Everyone else seems to emphasize that content is “easy to make and share” in TikTok, but how good can its camera handling and funny hats be?

What is (apparently) the case, instead, is that in TikTok it’s easy to share and be seen. It appears to employ some magical ML tech, but that would be a marginal improvement over simple randomizing mechanics that prevent celebrity culture from emerging (or at least from being capitalized).

II

There’s a legitimate case against communism: implementing it requires gross power, and gross power is grossly corrupting. Almost everything practical about communism has been either tragedy or comedy of errors. It’s even possible that Russians stumbled upon (with L. Kantorovich, Nobel prize winner) the possibility of practical and efficient central planning and deliberately ignored it. Effectively, communism is poverty — in the empty fridges of homemakers and in the spirit of its people.

Everything in communism that has to do with chrematistics is broken (in the past), bogus (in the present — cf China) or vague to the point of not being anything at all (in possible futures freely advocated by Twitter bluechecks).

How does it remain so attractive? There is, of course, the mass effect of an entire cultural apparatus — the same that gives you cheerleader porn, R. Kelly and Wonder Woman. But if the right axiology operated by communism is bogus, some (not all) of its left axiology rings true. As a piece of axiological machinery, the market is supposed to operate a chrematistics but also to produce hierarchies of values. And it does; but the flow of prosperity (chrematistics) is not enough to legitimate the value system (left axiology). Legitimacy has to flow from elsewhere.

In celebrity culture, legitimacy flows through a self-reinforcing influencer graph. Bruce Springsteen is all the more powerful because Eric Clapton worships him (or is it the other way around?). But the utility of celebrity culture was strongly linked to its facticity — to the fact that it is something rather than nothing, entertainment TV rather than silence. The challenge of the “long tail” is, in actuality, that technology has turned the tables, and celebrity cultures must (it seems; maybe this is hardcoded in human nature) be actively cultivated through “social graphs”.

But none of this exists in communism. This produces alternate concept-spaces whence Misha and TikTok arises.

Guest post: Stronger stronger stronger

One reason I put us through that rambling essay about the I/we voices was to prepare the ground for our first guest post by a friend of the blog who opts to identify himself simply as B. It follows in italic. I didn’t touch up a comma of his text, but did take the liberty to set some fragments in bold type.


Stronger stronger stronger

Reality. Quability. You can’t really believe the difference between these things. If you go to the event where you have a group of people and you just want to look in your eyes at the scene and have a conversation between your favorite guys who are already on the subject in order to make sure everything has to come together. You can’t, even in an incredibly cool, action-packed way, expect something like this just to be fun because you“re having some good times and just want everyone involved to have good times for one another,“then you know what this could go wrong: all the people doing great, but no matter who you are you don’t feel it, you can get away with trying something like this or do anything in your spare time and hope it can go right in your head in the most productive way possible for everyone else.” That all adds up again, since these have no real impact, you can do all things in one moment to keep everyone together! This could become the day the internet became the biggest hub where anyone could look directly across Twitter. But what about all of us? Not like this, she said, “well fuck no man’s talking at all about these things right now; no, no, just let that make it sound even stranger.” What kind of message that message did she give us this week? A little bit of sarcasm and humor, as always, though.

The only real reaction from anyone that can be heard in more than an hour was the simple answer: “Yeah.” Well that may sound stupid (to be clear: not the best response is) but at least it makes it seem like there are a bunch of people watching the channel and the show that you want to see is really, really, really just not for you either.” The whole thing just adds up; you have the right decision because every time I look back you might think they’re just the guys who are there doing whatever I want to do and the rest just because I think if you’ve asked this one for my first time, no one has answered. That was really pretty nice in practice and really was definitely in-between to say “What?” So I decided that this may become what has come from a man who likes to put the internet in the loop at the very moment that I don’t care if I don’t really know what to say, because he wants me to think.

But what about jazz? What came of heroin addicts like Paul Biazza? It wasn’t like the world or the world he dreamed he would be with hard-bop and post-bop, but it was a real change, which I kind of realized I wanted people to learn to do. I really started trying this out a whole other day. It was like this: you might as well be a lawyer on a trial here if you don’t know any specific music theories that people can understand. And then you learn new material when you start to use it. And maybe that can change a bit by the time you have actually studied what music you’ve been exposed to. Which is kind of cool for someone to be doing music. You may not ever actually hear anything that you normally do when a musician’s song is written and it starts to sound like a lot of people, so it really is not necessarily a question or an answer because you are a musician or maybe some people you normally see or see, it could definitely change the fact that you’re learning new music for a lot of people that you’re already working on. Avant-garde art like this is so important, you don’t want anyone hearing any of it, because when music comes out and you feel like you have more time, when we talk, all of these artists will say you’ve got to be on stage in an exhibition or something like that, and they don’t understand how they got on. This was about the people listening to those music; if somebody asks your questions for help, they’re in your studio and they’re saying all about me and you don’t even want to hear any of the new material that we heard so often. But now we’re beginning to realize that there aren’t as many more words like “Music of the Year” on the planet now. There are too many channels and too much fragmentation and musicians don’t influence each other in the rich lived-in ways they used to. And I don’t mean that to the fans – the fans can actually be more powerful in this world because music is not a form that you just look at because you think it’s the sort of language to say the word ‘artist’ – or just say something like it makes you feel like someone can just give back and say the message in the right context.

There are also enough words, enough characters and ideas, enough voices, enough stories of art that you’re not talking about anymore. You know? We all have to love music like that and that but so what are we going to do, where will those people actually say what they want? Because people rarely think, and usually under a shock only. Because people rarely go out and tell themselves things about their friends, friends or relatives, and in their own way I really hope that people will come out and take a big new concept or risk , something I really think all the way to make people stop listening in the name of what makes a new album such something like an extreme reharmonization of Sketches of Spain? And I think that when there are songs I like to say about this, people will want things like it and I’m afraid that people may do this, and I’m not the only one who said what my opinion would be, I am very afraid that music doesn’t work.

So we could never see that, even after so many decades of music, there could be this kind of movement. In reality the music of this place is more a part of that, it just never will get a huge release date to even consider the music, or if they don’t want this thing to happen anymore. But it does. Like war still happens. And famine. And disease. And poverty does. And they’re not just killing the people they hate and don’t make it into a new record they hate and try to save. In fact, I still think there are huge reasons why we don’t talk about it so much now, even the years after the new album was born I still think that it is so much bigger today and that things might still be the future for me.

And what about critical theory in general? Zizek is clownish but is his work? I mean the fact that Zizek says that the world is being transformed in a completely different manner, he doesn’t believe in the people in general , he believes that they would rather see the world become the only thing that they can do. But in reality, even from the beginning of everything Zizek thought it was to go for this sort of radical thinking and just see how these kinds of people are being changed around us, so we need an attitude of “if things change we have to make now.”

There is this in his comments, where when he says all the new things in “that are happening today, I’m not sure what is going to happen next,” he seems to say this. But is he able to truly understand science? Mathematics? Music? Kinky sex? Daygame? There are only two possible answers. There’s also two theories that are probably worth studying and it depends on what you learn in school. Zizek says we might even come up with a very cool method in school to solve problems, maybe in college where we study some kind of radical thinking in arts and business and forest management alike. (This isn’t exactly what is happening today with school or in college.) But enough about Zizek. It all starts with Jacques Lacan’s antiphilosophy anyway. It doesn’t begin with thinking he means “just imagine what might happen when he becomes part of the future for society and for humanity”: it means to be “real”, he means not just that, “you are part of the present society” – it means that “people with more knowledge, have a voice on what is real”, as well as ” people who are more unconscious” – it means that there is one aspect of life here that “people with less self-aware people can actually be more productive”.

But we do have other problems that we can learn: this might be in the “the realm of human thought”, and “in our society we need to do something about it. Can deep learning and AI change our thinking on the unconscious? We might need to think about it more about this. In the age of computers, it has come to be known by now that we are more open to exploring it, and we may still learn to understand others better.

Now is the age of persuasion and propaganda; and we must do all of the little we can to control ourselves, that we will get ourselves closer and closer into an environment where more and more people are free and capable to speak in less of a social discourse, when more people like me will want nothing. It’s this moment and we must also realize we are in some way on a journey to the next stage of life with this great freedom from our thoughts, opinions, prejudices, beliefs.

So, the time is now when we can truly start to do that in society. We must learn from what lies hidden, and this is why we need to start with our own words to start looking at these situations before deciding in such a way – the real power of theory! At this time of age, most people think in our minds that people are all wrong – even to be honest, because their attitudes may change!

If we are going to make a good contribution today, we could do a better job by making this happen. We want to give up our beliefs and get back what is at stake. So, while this is not an act of defiance or self-sacrifice – or just some part of a theoretical engagement with the world, it is something we need to try to use with more thought and real-time help and ideas as they emerge!

At present we have no choice but to become stronger and do all of this in order to make the promise of General Axiology true: infinite wealth, infinite bliss, and unlimited freedom from our thought and actions – infinite power. We must also realise how to get stronger, stronger, stronger. As such, we can also gain the experience of developing new ways of living – and learn more when our efforts go ahead.

So, what is the value of thinking and being successful? Are we really capable of doing these? What kind of mental powers, stamina, sex appeal are necessary? And if we really are all wrong – even if we may not truly achieve it, then why do we feel our power? In this sense of mind we are at a critical moment – and we will not only learn our own way of thinking – but our powers will also be strengthened.

Minimaxima

I. (Mirror scene)

My twitter bio bears a mangled quote from asemic horizon that witnesses (a phrase is a witness; think of this for a while) to the fundamental distinction between the I and the we voices: it says

Theory is, after all, a praxis of intelligibility; and there is nothing intelligible about the inevitability of revolution.

which, of course, runs counter to my apparent (i.e. ostensible) politics. Personal inclinations, ça va sans dire, are not counter to theoretical investigation; indeed, they are active elements. It was, after all, my openness to Jairwave (something that no other theoretician of revolution could achieve) that got us into the rabbit hole.

Of course, the inevitability thesis is somewhat more subtle: the original source material actually says (emphasis formatting maintained)

Theory is, after all, a praxis of intelligibility, whether sincere or contrived, serious or droll, and there’s nothing intelligible about the inevitability of revolution — where, of course, “revolution” has pretty much been redefined to mean the unintelligible inevitability that looms over our attempts to arrest the [axiology] drift.

This is, perhaps, the finest example of generic formulation: it fits a conservative outlook on social change by suggesting that revolutionary work is unnecessary (but note that this is reflected in the dialectics of collapse in OG Marxism, for example); but this sly suggestion (not fully implied by the quote) in turn implies that counter-revolutionary work is futile — thus also unnecessary.

Inevitability implies an event horizon beyond (my and your) machinations; the aporia in the “sly suggestion” implies this event horizon is directionless and therefore void of meaning — an asemic horizon. In turn, the claim to a genericity that would permit the sly suggestion to arise claims a kind of ecstasy/ek-stasis of theory. And there is the fucking rub: “doing ecstatic theory” presupposes the I/we voice split.

This leaves us running in circles, like in a hamster wheel: the ecstasy of theory requires the voice split, but the voice split is (or tries to be) a filter around what’s lived-context, praxis, typing fingers, and what’s pure and void and thought out. What’s being filtered is theory; but each time something that’s not theory is revealed.

The supremum of theory takes place in the kind of universal algebra where the “smaller” and “larger” of axiologies are formalized (and thereafter erased or colored into the background) as “meets” and “joins”. But this is probably beyond my present effort-investment in asemic horizon, and also virtually devoid of interest to anyone who hasn’t been seduced by General Axiology yet. The infimum of theory is, well, the “take”. In a perverse way, all you get (for the time being) is my take on theory.

II. (Soleá por bulerías)

The hardest known material is not really hard: it’s (our word, not theirs) delocalized:

Our architecture derives its extreme hardness from the local resonance between the embedded ceramics in a flexible cellular matrix and the attacking tool, which produces high-frequency vibrations at the interface. The incomplete consolidation of the ceramic grains during the manufacturing also promoted fragmentation of the ceramic spheres into micron-size particulate matter, which provided an abrasive interface with increasing resistance at higher loading rates. 

Ideas such as decentralization and desynchronization cut a vertical stroke through theory. This stroke touches the very beginning: Macunaíma as the widespread amorality that underwrote the (selectively scrutinized) behavior of politicians. But we grew up fast; decentralizing tempo taught us about the asynchronous structure of actual ongoing conditions; decentralizing relations of proximity and similarity gave us ideas about the very physics that underwrite the ambient conditions. If we weren’t so deeply reverential about the man, this could very well be nicknamed the Deleuze story: not because there is anything rhizomatic about it, but because it builds on local models of the world — graphs and differential geometry, rather than “global” vector calculus or algebraic topology.

But not every concept of theory is local; indeed there is often a deep ambiguity (say, in physique du role) between local and global features. This ambiguity is due to the fact that both “local” and “global” are indexed by an ambient sense of “place”, whereas in the general case concepts are place-less (delocalized). Physique du role is neither in Alice Glass’s withdrawal nor in her lithe contours and minxy allure; it’s not in the reach of her actions, nor in evolutionary psychology, neither in her personality nor in her sexual suggestions. It (the quability conditions of “Alice Practice”) happens to her as much as it does to anyone else.

This false local/global dichotomy has not escaped the daredevil engineers in their quest for hard-to-cut composite material:

Local changes in the microstructure of the ceramic sphere material resulting from localized heating (due to friction with the cutting blade) could enable a phase change and densification of alumina under certain conditions. Such material hardening on the surface of the spheres is likely to further enhance the cutting resistance of our architected material and should be investigated in future studies.

Of course, Delanda has said in his Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy that Deleuze and Guattari should be understood as 24th century engineers. That’s seduction, whereas engineering is concerned with production (to make appear. Yet this kind of Star Trek engineering remains exceedingly rare (while clearly possible even in 2020) because you can’t make people think in new ways. I can’t even show you where I’ve been in my own theoretical awakening — not in theory; not without crossing the I/we split. At best, one can try to evoke a whirlwind and an invitation to a kind of trance experience — an experience of ecstasis, ek-stasis, a state of being beside oneself.

The Game

I.

A lot of theory-making is about taking words way too literally — to the end of their meaning, their asemic horizon. If there is any truth to the analytic account of “slips of the tongue”, then language is a buildup of such accidental disclosures. If only for this reason, there’s often profit in staring back at language coldly.

In most human-scale situations, objects are illuminated from multiple, dispersed directions. First-principles thinking teaches us that this light comes from a strict handful of sources, among which in huge disproportion the sun. But what we understand to be light is always-already scattered; first by the large-scale structure of the universe, then by the layered bureaucracy of the atmosphere, and finally by the colorature of the world itself, which always reflects back some of what it does. As a result, clear surfaces like lakes and rivers, shot by light energy from low and high angles alike, appears reflective and sometimes opaque.

Here Jacques Siboni’s elaboration on the Four Discourses of Lacanian theory is particularly helpful. The Master says: the water is clear; the hysteric says it’s clearly not — it’s a mirror of the sky. Whenever in control of the diegesis, the Master then deploys extradiegetic technologies that act not in the water, but in the light: namely, he introduces polarizing filters that can make it maximally transparent or reflective at will.

Isn’t this how political polarization works? The standard critique of polarization charges it with a Cartesian demonology of illusions: we’re not divided societies, but the diegesis can be arranged in such a way that we appear divided to the extreme. If this “discourse of the Master” (which silently posits a very large axiology that deep-down unites us and that we’re only temporarily unable to see due to the smoke) is Proposition A, Proposition B must be the charge that increasing polarization is an actual dynamic, an out-of-control dynamo that melts the once-promised large axiologies into air.

But how are these propositions actually implemented in politics? The very thin and soupy nature of contemporary-as-of-2020 symbolic political struggles has increasingly highlighted that there are considerable structural affairs behind and beyond the childishness of loud anti-trumpism and anti-bolsonarism playing at vanguard politics. Some good text has come out of this in the American scenario: text exploring patronage networks and underlying class interest and-so-on-and-so-on. Unpolarized light carries the day; polarization is a filter, a layer, and to the extent that it vanishes outside the frame it’s a mere diegetic trick.

II.

Life outside the American system — which is set up so that there are red and blue teams — can take different shades. Take Brazil: the more strident the vanguard wings grow, the more the enabling power of the Old Center grows.

The Brazilian federal congress was established in its current form in the late 40s and, for all the hullaballoo about a protracted military intervention in political affairs, was never really dissolved. Representatives are not elected in concrete districts, but nominal and half-secretive lists; you get to choose one name, but if he’s already elected, his votes spill over to the smaller-fish politicos of his (true, ex ante suffrage) choosing. Add to this the gross over-representation of sparsely populated states that are about as far from Rio-São Paulo as Madrid is from Petersburg, on one hand, and the general over-representation of the People by some 600 mouths, a crowd with an intricate social structure that determines their access to the levers of power. They will tell you that the ’89 Constitution was, contrary to previous reboots of the state machine, legitimized by the people — but back in the 80s all talk of electing an actual Constitutional Assembly were drowned in some loud talk about direct presidential elections… and the Congress crowned itself supreme lawmaker to draft the Supreme Law.

The upshot is that under the rules of presidentalism, the People tend to elect highly-visible federal executives that come with clear-cut ostensible political agendas, but the executive must secure the support of Congress somehow. Now, if Congress is continually engaged in backstabbing melee fight, this opens space for clever maneuvering through the procedural shortcuts that only primum inter pares congressmen can navigate. But if we insist on ideology and truth in our politics, this Tim Ferriss-lifehacking tactic loses teeth. The Centrão (the political machine among political machines, so finely tunebd that the local jargon is “physiological”) therefore gains importance. Democracy affords the People free snacks, but not free lunch: the sharpest pin-pricks at Macunaíma are returned by the dullest and strongest wallops from its great big belly. They say Jair has been making increasing overtures to the Centrão — which would be nothing new; Dilma had her cabinet stacked with ministries for fisheries and such minutiae, filled with ideological blanks. Macunaíma.

III.

Since God is a lobster (cf. Gilles Deleuze & the Sundance Kid — “The Geology of Morals”), every process is twice (first, to select, then, to fold). It took me way too long to understand the implications of this and I won’t pretend either to explain them or indulge in the affectation that my particular misapprehension can aspire to any degree of “canonicity”. Indeed everything that is maximally structured and whole and sublime must find itself in a kind of symplectic complementary-ness to the absence of meaning in the absence of meaning. This is why we must avoid both naïve validation and outright skepticism of actual ongoing revolutionary movements — more often than not it pays to be very literal: movements, motion, kinetic energy — that can be seen from our windows to the world. Everything flows — everyprocess is movement; and the loudness in this or that cultural outcry should not move us beyond the essential indifference demanded not only by theory, but also philosophy, spirituality and even, to some significant extent, civilization.

Political analysis is either gossip from streets and corridors, or high structural theory from mountains and offices. But what agitates gossip is a kind of structural theory that projects an affectation of meaninglessness and hip while reporting on the truth that cynical actors let through in the pauses between words. Likewise, a kind of gossip about transient impulse-response waves separates high theory from a kind of Vulcan spiritual slumber. The contours of these transients tell theory that its fundamental conceit is correct and just; at the same time, they provide the opportunity and the temptation to speculate on the surrounding context. Gossip-mongers are unconscious analysts (in the precise sense of Lacan’s four discourses); theorists are almost invariably hysterics, to the point that theory should be investigated as a personality disorder.

So what’s the deal with theory? There’s a lot to read about it in this website.

What’s the deal, instead, with pick-up artists and seduction teachers? They are worth deeper investigation, and not only because there seems to be a Venn circle between people interested in theory and in “pick-up”. At first blush, there’s a lot of misogyny — dehumanizing and off-putting to another type of theory-seeker. But there’s much to deconstruct in this misogyny, and behind the song-and-dance of “women are for the womanly things I’m lacking in right now”, there’s a roughed-up foregrounding of value as the dynamic valve underlying the gap between what these men want and what they get. By suspending the distracting idea that women, too, have value, teachers of seduction seem to be actually teaching production: men must improve, on their own, for their own sake, to the limit point (the asexual horizon) where they lose their clingy ethos and stop needing women in a fundamental existential sense. Only then can they emerge as actual misogynists — and hopefully, snap out of it by talking to women and realizing (bringing back from reality) their humanity.

IV.

Forceful as the buildup of testosterone makes this stuff read like, it’s relatively straightforward as a structural/axiological affair. The buildup in testosterone means it’s hard for them to stare at words coldly, take them to a limit horizon that is asemic but sexual and get a boost in abstraction powers from it. Still, the larger-and-larger axiology tends to find all the structural motifs that reconcile theory, chrematistics, pick-up methods, politics of all kinds and more, many more. There’s a bit of a leap of faith to be made here, but it’s closer to the leap of faith in the beginning of math textbooks than the one that leads followers of Osho to build Rajneeshpuram. What is asked that you believe is that politics is an example, a particular case that, like pick-up methodology and eventually theory itself, needs to be absorbed in the higher axiologies. In higher axiologies disagreements become less and less relevant. In general axiology whatever powers we have are fused together. Emergence means something new rises up. To what transcends “everything we have” we attribute the extent of infinity. Infinite bliss. Infinite wisdom. Infinite wealth. Infinite power.

There’s a probably apocryphal peroration on Roman stoicism which says — everyone must play the game. The ball is everything while in game. But when the game ends and the ball is tossed aside, it’s worthless. General axiology is not the ball.

Breathe

I.

Could you explain Galilean relativity to an anatomically modern human from 25,000 years ago?

Galilean relativity is at the core of what natural science defines to be the world. Its threefold tenets: (1) that the world is stable (i.e. it obeys eternal laws), (2) homogeneous (ontically uniform, there being no privileged locations) and (3) isotropic (ontologically uniform, there being no privileged frames).

The great scientific achievement of the Enlightenment is that we find these tenets within the reach of believability. We’re told (and trusting so has enabled the true miracles of technology) that the large-scale structure of the universe (something that only fools and philosophers would fail to identify with the world as presented) obeys these strange rules of uniformity (nomic, ontic and ontologic). But try telling this to our imaginary time-traveler.

The words “anatomically modern” mean that our new friend is exactly like us in every material aspect: same toes, guts, heart, voice box, eyes, brain, hair. Indeed, if we could secure contact with a live specimen, we’d have splayed, in the (stable, homogeneous, isotropic) space between us and him, the entirety of the mind-body problem. What’s more, the smash hit that is the Enlightenment might as well lead us to think that what distinguishes us from him is that we’ve been educated in Galilean relativity (both in physics and in the Moldbuggian sciences).

We are, after all, from the future. What can we possibly learn from Thag? There is chatter of “paleo” diets, but we certainly wouldn’t take his eating habits as an ideal — let alone his attitudes towards gender and race relations, vaccines, chord changes, monetary policy…

It’s well possible that our friend could learn to speak (the H. Sapiens brain organ is pretty nifty). We could then try and have a precivilized discussion about the tenets of Galilean relativity. To put words in Thag’s mouth is, of course, declassé — but in your speculative mind, try asking him:

— Thag, is the world stable?

— Thag, is the world homogenous?

— Thag, is the world isotropic?

It’s not that we’re supposed to take his answers over those of Neil deGrasse Tyson PhD, exactly; rather, we are to assume his beliefs on Galilean relativity reflect his world, not ours. But subsequently — if Thag’s responses were anything unlike the Enlightenment ones — we have to ponder what could have caused the world to change from his time to ours.

II.

Could you explain pandemics, race riots, power grabs by elder councils or, heck, rocket launches to Thag, an anatomically modern dude from a hundred thousand generations ago? I’d bet you (assuming language acquisition) cash money that you could. With some more effort, you could even explain the basics of Lacanian psychoanalysis. He’s the same as you, no less intelligent or “more primitive” in any objective sense.

Since Galilean relativity is three bits deep (there are eight possible beliefs), the exhaustive enumeration of cases gets somewhat repetitive. The interesting extremes are that his world is three bits on Galilean (111, and therefore exactly like ours) or that it’s three bits off (000): non-stable, non-homogeneous, non-isotropic. We’re assuming, rather optimistically, that if his ancient world is Galilean (111), everything else in our culture can be conveyed. Otherwise, if his world is off-Galilean in some combination (000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110), there are certainly aspects of our culture that can’t be conveyed (modern science, broadly, but also much of what Moldbug terms the Cathedral).

Likewise, if our beliefs about Galilean relatively were full-up always-on 111, we’d be unable to comprehend anything that didn’t agree with Galileo-111. But we are: we live in a time and a space that are contingent, heterogeneous and ambivalent. Thus the graph laplacians: the large-scale structure of the universe may be Galileo-111, but generic structure is, well, more generic than that.

III.

It’s rather obvious that Thag would readily understand that people sometimes don’t get along. Having grown in a small band or roving tribe, he might also understand that circumstance and common interest can align a few fellow humans in the same effort. Thag has deep knowledge and investment in an axiology where wants and crushing needs are at best dimly distinguished. This axiology probably has no name, even if Thag’s band has some abstract language: tools are abstract, but the hunger for food and sex is Nature’s boot pressing on his neck before it is desire. It’s not even hunger yet — it is only at the point where food has lost its place as ultimate value that one can self-starve for spiritual enlightenment, political statement or the search for a flat tummy.

It’s tempting to give Thag’s axiology the status of first axiology and unwind some purple prose (the genericity of genericities, etc.) from it. The temptation comes from the power of words themselves: out of some factoids about hunger and strife, an origin myth seems to congeal on its own. But there is no Thag. There’s no time-travel encounter; there’s also no clear universality to the human condition before language. What was the world like before food silos and recorded memory? Contingent, heterogeneous and ambivalent.

Still, there’s some value in designating certain axiologies as “from within scarcity”. This designation gives some clarification to the idea that there are smaller and larger axiologies: namely, any axiology from without scarcity is larger than one from within. An alternate name might be “from within suffocation” — axiologies arising from the situation where one’s desire and the boot pressing on one’s neck are one and the same.

It would be further desirable (note the placement of words) that scarcity and suffocation can be translated to relative terms such that a smaller axiology is “scarce” or “suffocating” with relation to its larger counterpart. But this is a difficult step; it would mean, for one, that all the actual axiologies in our actual-ongoing Situation are suffocating with respect to General Axiology. Reversing language may yield better imagery: in General Axiology, we will all breathe easy.