July 17, 2018
March 9, 2018
January 3, 2017
True diversity means trusting no corporeal centralization of a single narrative. Tolerance stops short of the goal. We must reach a point at which it becomes tolerable to tolerate, for up to now, it has only been intolerable not to tolerate.
We need a new west.
There's no better time to rethink some of our common assumptions than now. We disparage other cultures for female genital mutilation, and as heinous as it is, we dismiss male genital mutilation in this country because we suppose we have a better reason to do so. While we're busy fighting to keep people out who would prefer a clit-cutting community or even just arguing with people who think that letting them in is a gesture of tolerance, perhaps we will take a minute to examine just what it is we're defending.
The following are some common precepts about western life, practices and ideas which are as enduring as they are unquestioned and ignored as often as questioned:
Most people don’t like admitting it because it works against the conceit that they have mysterious, complex characters, but the fact is that most people are what they seem. It is that simple. For every time that the people around you feel with certainty that the sociopath working on the docks is really a teddy bear underneath, or that the teetotal Ned Flanders next door is really a wife-beater, one would only be fair to consider each and every case in which it is precisely the most suspicious characters who committed the crimes in question.
What is self ownership? Some people think that it is good enough to have some property or to even have their debts paid off. For others, it's choosing what one gets to watch on Netflix each night. A smaller number of people are constantly dreaming of a world where we no longer have to shrug whenever we hear that the president dropped bombs on a warehouse or a medicine plant and say, 'Well, they all do this, don't they?' Some dream of a day when no one will act on our behalf, nor will anyone in our community act against us on another's behalf. Democracy would simply be one's ability to make good on a promise in the face of a consensus, and if that promise was broken, the one making it would have no further traffic with the people one made promises to.
What does the west's quality do for us if it can't defend itself? YouTube, blogs and podcasts are being flooded with proclaimations of the west's greatness, hyper-extending the accomplishments of history, as if to muscle-arm what was best about this hemisphere back into action at a moment we so desperately need it.
Economic tragedies rest ever suspended over us in intervals between the moments in which they explode. Bataille's embrace of the tragic sense of the economy is as anti-utopian as it is ‘life affirming'-a Nietzscheanism without which Bataille would not be possible. But then, Bataille is not possible without De Sade either. Within De Sade's work is a key to understanding a system of exchange which throws aside the victimary moralisms socialism requires to dress itself as an utopian ideology whilst enjoying the same unencumbered power plays.
I was once an open person. Just about everyone knew or had access to the personal information I would never dream of giving away now. For instance, people knew my name. Not only did they know my name but they knew what I looked like. If that wasn’t enough, they knew who my peers were, who my family was and who my friends were. They knew where I’d been, what I was doing and where I lived, also the places I’d lived in the past up to that point. Now, I am no longer open. I have retreated into myself. If someone greets me, wishes to shake my hand and know a few things about me, I might venture to tell them
There are some friends who are handy to keep around for the sole fact that they perfectly embody what the masses think.
There is only so much knowledge that a man can take with him to the grave. There will come a time when every man searching for knowledge must discover this truth for himself—that most of the books he reads will be repeating things he has either already read or articulating things he has already thought and observed many times in his solitude. Some men will be satisfied enough to take solace in those books which agree with those ideas they came to on their own. But a man actually wishing to learn, not one who wishes to collect a great deal of erudition or appear learned, but a man who actually wishes tolearn, will have to understand means of learning. He will have to figure out what his project is, first of all, and then how to search for its necessary materials. He must be a great intuiter of men’s minds, a great untangler of precepts and must constantly cultivate a clear-headed way of taking in even the most abstract concepts, all so he can retrieve it and figure out where to place it in the bigger scheme of his life. Only by doing this will it be possible to take any project further.
To hear people speak of children’s education today! One will often hear a complacent parent saying, ‘Oh well, as long as they’re reading something.’ This is not much different from saying, ‘Oh well, as long as they’re watching some television program.’ People who haven’t read enough are often too reverent of books. Since the beginning of the time that books were first being written, there is not a year that goes by where it can be said that less books are being written than the year before. The world is overfull of books.
With this truth in mind, many types have developed. There exists one type of person who never reads and wouldn’t care to. Another type doesn’t read and always regrets he didn’t get started on it, believing that perhaps when he has more time and when circumstances are just right he may pick it up in the future.
Another type reads for the same reason he watches television. The only distinction between his reading and his television watching is that his reading provides him with enviable opportunities to tell his peers that he ‘reads a lot’ or ‘enjoys reading.’
There exists a type who reads what is taught at university and trusts that the university’s professors have access to a line of knowledge that categorizes thinkers and writers by level of importance. The type who makes up the ‘university reader’ may be cleverer than his fellow classmates who merely adopt the opinions of their favorite professors. The university reader intuits much larger prejudices that have greater, historical implications and aligns his agreement with those. Certain literary patriarchal successions will find their home in the university reader’s mind and he’ll be able to tell you what relationship these many writers have with one another and how that leads up to where we are today. The even cleverer amongst this group will be able to recognize opposite strains of thought in a literary succession belonging to a different school of thought. He may even be able to tell you why he thinks it’s wrong. The university reader is, above all, a surrogate for different historical narratives in conflict. At his very best, he realizes this about himself.
There exists another type among autodidacts. This type of reader consumes so much text and so often that his mind is a poster-board for everything that has ever been thought in the world before him. Among the types, this is the one who is in the most danger of thinking someone else’s thoughts rather than his own. Even that which passes for originality is always suspect, for he has collected so many strong impressions, has remembered so many passions, that that which is most interesting or seems like it ought to be true is true to him. This is the only type who can be accused of reading too much. He is the one who would benefit from a book-fast. For his whole psychology to renew itself, he needs time to sort his thoughts, dissimulate certain information or maybe forget a great deal of that which cannot possibly mean anything to what he finds most valuable about his own soul.
This type does not often benefit from a peer who will recognize this and say as much. The peers of this type will all too often admire the dark circles under his eyes, his disorganization and stacks of open books, his many complete and incompleted projects, his canceled appointments and lack of sleep. Though this type might be rare as it is, even among this type it is rare to find one who makes the leap from eccentric autodidact to free-thinker (to use an unfortunate, much over-used phrase).
The American definition of a comedian is someone on television who interviews people. People who perform ‘standup’ cannot rightly be referred to as comedians. If this was for the fact that they aren’t funny, the matter would be simple enough. The truth, however, is that they are, on occasion, funny, for all intensive purposes. But unfortunately, their ‘funniness’ is part of what makes them ‘entertaining.’ They differ from musicians and actors in that the latter don’t rely on an emotional reaction from their audience in order to fulfill their art’s purpose. Emotional reactions are, to them, simply bi-products. For the comedian, however, their art form, along with every piece of phrasing and every fraction of timing, is arranged in order to incite laughter in the audience.
Because the experience one gains by going to a rock concert is not the same as going to a comedy show, there is a different expectation from the audience. Someone might go to see a rock show expecting to hear their favorite songs. If one hopes to go to a comedy show to hear his favorite joke, he will not take pleasure in it for the same reasons he did when he first heard it. Before the digital age, a comedian could get by well enough when guest-appearing on a late-night talk show or on a panel show by recycling some of his act as he saw it fit when it applied to the questions the interviewers were asking. Before the digital age, the worst that one could fault him for was hamfisting unnatural conversations or for forsaking the cult of spontaneity. In the digital age, however, in which comedians and artists of all sorts have chosen to rely on social media and ‘networking’ to accomplish their career goals and make a name for themselves, to repeat jokes word for word, with seemingly forced rehearsal of spontaneous gestures throughout, is an act of indelicacy.
When wit is supplied as a commodity, and when those commodities are paired to the needs of byte-sized frames of context in which to communicate them, there is less of a chance that anything remotely resembling art will come out of it. Where do they go for subject matter? Politics. Current events.
In politics, every act of complacent pandering to every party most highly funded by media vehicles translates into value-weighted calls to arms against scapegoats to match the age and armies of enemies which are always deemed ‘ignorant’ and only dangerous on account of this ignorance.
Bill Hicks revived a political style of comedy first pioneered by Lenny Bruce, and which others have successfully put new spins on, such as David Cross and Doug Stanhope. However, the nature of such political comedy can only go so far when the issues addressed stem from the same tired old list: gay marriage, pornography, religion, racism, police brutality, (etc) … Lenny Bruce covered each one of these in 1966. Comedians who are still rehashing variations of this material would do us all better by getting into politics themselves.
The all-too often forgotten truth which I much hesitate to admit, since I love the pioneers of that genre, is that few people are going to the comedy show of a talent who boasts ‘radical’ political views with the intentions of having their minds blown or changed. Let us see it for what it is: People go to standup shows in order to have their prejudices confirmed, nothing more, nothing less. I’ll go a step further and say that most of the very standup comedians today who boast ‘radical’ views are, in fact, espousing views which pander directly to the liberal media machine, and thus, those which fund them. There may not be any direct payoff, but that is hardly the point. There’s a sense of professional safety in passing off the safest, most socially acceptable views as ‘radical,’ and turning the societal aberrations among those who oppose those ideas—the enemies which most resemble villains, in other words—into the ‘mob’ whom they are pressing up against so bravely. One may approve of political standup comedy and find pleasure in laughing at it if one does it with full consciousness of its aims—It’s purpose is not to challenge, but to comfort and that is all.
Progress and Degeneration are always happening simultaneously. Even considering each as part of a cycle is an error. Each only speaks for the degree to which people are willing to invest themselves in either direction. Degeneration only afflicts us when we're unable to let progress go. To be against the modern world is a modern phenomenon; precisely a feature of the modern world. Today people want the synthetic return of a culture that never was. They pine for and dream up an imaginary past that suits their vision of the future. The idea is to create a scapegoat. It is easier to name some enemy who must be eliminated than it is to seduce people with a particular vision of the future. There are only small, contingent obstacles, the elimination of which make people feel more dependent on the eliminators. There is also a sense of peace of which the eliminators are felt to be the arbiters. The quality of a culture is going to be considered 'good' or 'bad' only in relation to the 'good' or 'bad' of another culture. Those who preach of the west's 'quality' have been seduced almost completely by the democratic investment of quantity within quality. They will only consider quality to have prevailed when it exists in large quantities.