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”.

 

Eichmann in Patropi

(This is probably part 1 of a neverending series.)

ABGLT-bolsonaro

I.

As you might have read (particularly if informed only by the international press), Jair Bolsonaro is a deal-breaker: incompatible with Brazilian democratic principles and popular only because of, presumably, the same reasons that have been giving power to deal-breakers everywhere. But reality is impossibly specific;  Marine Le Pen is no Trump and Jair is neither.

The true reason that Jair Bolsonaro is a deal-breaker is that he’s insufficiently post-modern. And I know this sounds like a Jordan Peterson talking point, so let me defend my usage as precise and unpertesonian.

Brazil is a post-modern nation in the most literal — syntactic — possible sense. It once was a quickly modernizing nation ruled by a parliamentary monarchy about as democratic as any modern monarchy (except, of course, for slaves, which is neither here nor there). It fought a heroic nationalistic war against a napoleonic aggressor. It even had a first-grade literary culture best exemplified by Machado de Assis, hailed by people of all nations as the Black Dostoyevsky. Even the Emperor was profoundly modern; having met him in exile, Nietzsche wrote on his surprise on meeting such a cultured, enlightened king.

Then, this Meiji-revolution-in-the-tropics was abruptly interrupted by a military coup, the date of which is still celebrated as a national holiday.  One of their first acts is to ban the “animal lotto” that had been ran by the owners of the Zoo. Of course, the animal lotto is omnipresent in post-modern, post-coup Brazil, because the 1889 coup didn’t bring the end of oligarchy, it brough the end of meaning.

Interestingly, there’s not much to say about our post-modern history: the rough-and-tumble of military coups and phony elections (voto de cabresto) that follows until the 1930s is finally overcome by another military coup led by a caudillo-type figure hailing from the very border with Argentina named Getulio Vargas. Getulio eventually rules for 15 full and ininterrupted years — the first seven of which as a weak dictatorship continually challenged by regional military forces, and the last eight of which as a brutal, Gestapo-collaborating, intellectual-imprisoning dictatorship. Hilariously, Getulio Vargas briefly returns to power in the mid-50s by the popular vote and creates Petrobras, which you might have seen in the news lately.

Roughly at the same time (actually two years before, but let me have my narrative) as Getulio takes power for the first time, the quintessential post-modern Brazilian hero (one “without a character”) is introduced — the shape-shifting, race-swapping, preternaturally slothful Macunaíma. By then, the fundamentally chaotic and future-less character (or, in a literary stroke, the lack of one) of Brazilian post-modernity had become clear.

How does Getulio rationalize suppressing Brazilian fascism while inching towards an alliance with Nazi Germany? Macunaíma. How does Brazil suddenly shifts alliances towards the Americans? Well, the foremost Nazi in the Getulio government, Filinto Müller, dies in an inexplicable plane crash — but face it, also Macunaíma. Why did the single true stateman between Vargas and FHC move the capital from the historical Rio de Janeiro (planned from the get-go as the capital of a colonial empire) to the literal middle of nowhere? Macunaíma.

This is why the “Brazilian Trump” story doesn’t work: we’ve been living in Trumpish epistemological conditions since before our great-grandmas’s times.

II.

Trump is a natural international reference point. There are a few more you might have heard if you’re reading the morally agitated press (should you take into account that Glenn Greenwald is married to a politician from a small-time party under near-direct control of former president Lula? that’s up to you): the Military Dictatorship (the singular one that’s not openly celebrated) and, gasp, fascism.

We’ve established so far that Brazil has experienced long strings of military rule since the post-modern coup of 1899. We have not painted this history in the profondo rosso colors of Getulio Vargas’s torture cells smack in the middle of downtown then-capital Rio did — and I say this without any irony — because their blood doesn’t matter much.  It’s modern blood, shed by modern archetypes including communists and fascists (and whoever else gets caught in this overly-large net, such as non-Macunaímic master Graciliano Ramos), spilled in the effort to keep modernity from creeping back in. Modern blood, and therefore as distant from Brazilian reality as the blood from the late-1800s War with Paraguay.

This is also why the assassination attempt on Jair Bolsonaro’s life doesn’t seem to matter —  despite medical records attesting that he had lost enough blood to die in most alternate realities, the kind of people that gets retweets still claim not to have seen it. It doesn’t show well in the 3-second cellphone camera footage loop that people saw on TV.

So what’s with the particular instance of military rule that Brazilian culture does reject? What, some of the communists killed this time are even the same communists Getulio Vargas missed. It’s not enough to reverse this theory of modern blood and say that it’s “postmodern blood” that gets spilled. In the name of what? Germanic name notwithstanding, general Geisel’s aesthetics, policies and policy aesthetics (but not aesthetic policies — maybe this matters, maybe not) as Dilma Roussef.

The fact is that it’s really hard to say something clear about the abject character of the military rule of the 1960-1970s because Brazilian culture refuses to allow it to die. More time has passed between the end of the Regime and now than between the bombing of Dresden and the creation of an European Parliament, and they had nazis to purge. A key difference is that we didn’t purge ours; we made a pact of amnesty (on all sides — there were plenty of atrocities perpetrated by them commies to forgive) that possibly let some wounds infect, but was mostly broken unilaterally by Dilma Roussef’s party, who after a good 30 years inaugurated the so-called Comittee for the Truth.

At least some observers should have  been taken aback by this word – the Truth — but instead, mainstream culture proceeded to congratulate itself for having been right the whole time (this is a lot like if Chacrinha’s proof of Riemann’s conjecture turned out to be correct) and some fringes were quick to the defense of their heroes — quickly transmuted into modern historical figures even as they died of old age in relative poverty. Most ordinary people didn’t even pay much attention — ain’t nobody got the time for modern events.

And yet, out of the sheer sterility of the post-1988 version of post-modern Brazil and the ballooning demands of a bulging urban lower middle class, this modern re-reading of whatever happened between 1964 and 1985 took root. We need to understand the sheer novelty of clear ideas in Patropi to make some sense of Jair Messias Bolsonaro — this is like the pre-calculus for Macunaíma. I’m sorry  I can’t make it simpler.