August 15, 2004
THE TIME IS NOW: AN INCITEMENT TO ACTION
1. I can say with sheer confidence that your blog has no importance. Who wants to read your snivelling contemplations? If wanted to read a pile of horse shit I'd buy 'Naked Lunch' and not your blog. Now that's saying something.
2. Date: Wed, 19 May 2004 12:00:59 +0100
From: G Master
Subject: wotcha woebot
you are both a pompous twat and an ignominious fool. your pathetic, onanistic, self-serving rants and tantrums stand as a monument to the introspective idiocy of music 'critics' within the blogosphere. Rest assured that everything you release through your ridiculous mail order system will be on soulseek and kazaa within a month - i'll personally guarantee it! Now get back in your box.
3. Now I go on living in my corner and irritating myself with the spiteful and worthless consolation that a wise man can’t seriously make himself anything, only a fool makes himself anything. Yes, a man of the nineteenth century ought, indeed is bound to be essentially without character; a man of character, a man who acts, is essentially limited. Such is my forty-year old conviction. I am forty years old now and forty years is a lifetime; it is extreme old age…
However: what can a decent, respectable man talk about with the greatest pleasure?
Well, so I will talk about myself.
4. I am angry, I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin/ my irritability keeps me alive/ and kicking
You might recognize these four ulcerated howls from interiority.
The first is from someone calling himself tomato, outraged at k-punk’s temerity in suggesting that the scene we’re involved in – i.e. this one NOW, what you’re DOING this second – might be, y’know, bows head, it’s not for me it’s for my sick wife, in some ways IMPORTANT.
The second charming and cheerful message is from a correspondent who emailed the boy Ingram in the dying daze of Woebot (it says something really sad about Human OS, don’t it folks, that a machine as relentlessly postive, intensifying and generous as woebotnik should persistently attract these kind of attacks from tortured monkeys in hell [TMH]).
The third is from a book Luke and I hold in the highest esteem –
Dostoyevsky’s peerless, phorensic expression/ exploration of TMH agony, Notes from Underground.
The final one is Howard Devoto’s adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novella, Magazine’s ‘Song from Under the Floorboards’.
Now, why dwell on this morbid, gruesome horror?
Well, because it’s important to know the enemy, not because we have to attack them (katak frenzy is both a waste of time and self-destructive) or even persuade them (they might well be a lost cause), but because we need to take out those layers of strata in ourselves that block us out of Intensive Now, the body of uttunul, intellectual love of God (ILG).
Crucial here is the notion of ‘Importance’.
Why are resentocrats so invested in saying that what is happening in this network is not important?
Partly of course it’s that obligatory trivializing commonsense that hangs like a permanent grey sky over English culture, that ‘white brit routine of pubs and clubs, of business as usual, the bovine sense of good blokes together’ that Kodwo so hilariously lambasted in the introduction to More Brilliant.
One of my favourite lol bits of Burroughs is his excoriating diagram of ‘ Great British cretinism’ (Kodwo again) in The Place of Dead Roads:
‘The English have gone soft in the outhouse. England is like some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead. Ingloriously foundering in its own waste products, the backlash and bad karma of bad empire. You see what we owe to the Washington and the Valley Forge boys for getting us out from under this den of snobbery and accent, where everyone stomps discreetly on the hands below him:
“Pardon me, old chap, but aren’t you getting just a bit ahead of yourself in rather an offensive manner?”
The only thing gets Homo sapiens up off his dead ass is a boot up it. The English thing worked too well and too long. They’ll never get that ballast of unearned privilege into space. Who wants that dumped in his vicinity. They get out of a spaceship and start looking desperately for inferiors.’ (194-195)
Yeh, LOL, ‘pardon me, old chap, but aren’t you getting just a bit ahead of yourself in rather an offensive manner?
There are of course many and complex reasons for the dull-as-ditchwater empiricist it’s all a larf beer on the brain will-to-dampening in English culture. It can’t be unrelated to the fact that this was the first country in which the Kapital Thing took root of the human CNS. 250 years of enslavement to Kapital have produced a mordant fatalism especially evident in the working classes. ‘That’s life,’ ‘you’ve just got to get on with it’, these fatalistic clichés are the life-crushing formulae that are interiorized as a protective emollient shield against the draining sense of disappointment and failure that Kapital relentlessly imposes.
As Ray reminded me last night, the disastrous move in English Marxism was right at the founding moment of Cult Studs, when a garbled Gramsci-ism came out as a condescending bourgeois ‘celebration’ of the pride and nobility of working class life in all its glories: going to the pub as a revolutionary act, reading against the grain of EastEnders as the first step in a micropolitcal overthrow of Kapital…. This isn’t even a diluted Marxism, it is about as anti-Marxist as you could get. Marx’s point, remember, was that the proletariat is only virtually a revolutionary class, its revolutionary power lies in its potential to transform itself into a Collective Subject; the actual proletariat at the moment, segregated into labour-consumer OedI-pods, far from being an irritant to Kapital, is in every sense its meat and drink.
This is why we have to be clear about the point of Marx’s claim that things would only improve if the conditions of emiseration for the proletariat actually got worse.
It’s like this:
One TMH to another. ‘It’s not so bad here is it, with the sun cream and the painkillers. And, after all, an open fire can be rather nice, can’t it?
It’s important to never ever fall into the sick bad Christian trap of glorifying suffering. But suffering is one way of being jolted out of the OedI-pod, one way of being forced out of the ostensible comfort of the interior, and Outside you can see Human OS for the dismal, crushing machine that it is. At this point we can start addressing the causes of suffering, our own and others’, and then think about stopping it.
This, after all, was the point of Marx’s criticism of religion. When he said that religion was the opiate of the masses, it’s almost tempting to say, ‘what’s wrong with opiates?’ But Marx’s point was deeply Spinozist: opiates might make you feel good, but they don’t deal with the causes of your pain. It’s like playing a sport with a painkilling injection; do it long enough, and you’ll make the injury chronic.
Now if the English, that ‘herd of drunkards and rakes’ (Nietzsche) have a special affinity with intensity-smothering resentment, they are obviously not its sole victims/ propagators.
The genius of the Dostoyevsky novella was to have delineated in hilarious but also deeply saddening detail the features of what Nietzsche will later call the Last Man, the ultimate product of bourgeois Europe’s will-to-mediocrity and resentful leveling. (It’s not surprising that Nietzsche should have so admired Dostoyevsky as a psychologist).
It has been said that Dostoyevsky foretold the twentieth century in ‘Notes from Underground’. And he certainly anticipated the disastrous, literally genocidal, consequences that would follow when the petit-bourgeoisie were allowed to turn their resentment into a cosmotheopolitical creed. The Underground Man, a minor civil servant of prodigous intellectual power, is the voice of an ‘over-conscious idiot’ (D/G), Freud’s His Majesty the Ego (HME), the educated man whose mind is turned inwards in a hideously implexed, nightmarishly convoluted oscillation between total self-aggrandizement and abject self-loathing. His acutely desperate observations of his own pathetic self-absorption make him the spokesman of the savagely life-despsing inner life of the European petit-bourgeoisie. The Nazis, as Ballard points out in his review of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, were overwhelmingly members of that class, failed writers and artists whose crushed dreams of acclaim were viciously desublimated into the worst horror show the planet has ever seen. Not for nothing do D/G say that the line of self-abolition, the most dangerous line of all, is the line of fascism.
‘There is in fascism a realized nihilism. Unlike the totalitarian state, which does its utmost to seal all possible lines of flight, fascism is constructed on an intense line of flight, which it transforms into a line of pure destruction and abolition. It is curious that from the very beginning the Nazis announced to Germans what they were bringing: at once wedding bells and death, including their own death, and the death of the Germans. They thought they would perish but that their undertaking would be resumed, all across Europe, all over the world, throughout the solar system. And the people cheered, not because they did not understand, but because they wanted that death through the death of others.’ (ATP 230)
The Underground Man squats in us all, that’s why D/G says we have to be constantly vigilant against the formation of fascism, even micro-fascisms.
But one of many consequences of the Dostoyevsky/Nietzsche/D/G analysis is to vigorously and absolutely separate joyful confidence in what you are doing, from fascism. Fascism is a massive compensation, an aggregation of disappointed egocrats, not an expression of vibrant collectivity.
Kapital learned very quickly that the fascist line of abolition was not the best way to sell hamburgers. So it has domesticated and diluted and mediatized the Underground Man in us all, hooking us up to looped images of our own manic depressive interiority in the Videodrome.
How then do those within Kapital Videodrome measure ‘importance’?
Two ways, I would suggest, both equally pathetic, both equally ubiquitous.
1. Media apotheosis --- It’s only on TV that Things Really Matter. Fantasies implanted in us by the Videodrome: painfully self-aggrandizing confessional ‘interviews’ in which we ‘tell it all’ on television to Davina Mcall or some other media meat puppet. Sad electric dreams out of Rupert Pupkin and Alan Partridge. ‘Now that kid who bullied me in school will be sorry ha ha ha ha.”
2. Kapitalization. Things are only Important when they make money, right? Well, let’s think for a moment about what entails. Some monkey-suited stressed out tortured silverback in hell comes down from the high castle with a bag of money, strings very much attached. ‘Yeh, Mark, like the site, but it’s a bit difficult for the average punter, y’know. Zak here in marketing has some great concepts he’d like to talk through with you. Put it in five bullet points on a powerpoint presentation and then we’ll think about presenting it to the board.’
Forget all that.
They are trying to block you out of here, out of now.
They have owned the past and the future forever, all bought and paid for.
All we’ve got is Now. But then, that’s everything.
Posted by mark at August 15, 2004 02:57 PM
"Now again I see those wandering souls, that have sought restricted love, and have not yet understood that 'the word of sin is restriction'. It is very curious; they seem to be looking for one another or for something, all the time, constantly hurrying about. But they knock up against one another, because they are so shut up in their cloaks.
And a voice sounds: It is most terrible for the one that hath shut himself up and made himself fast against the universe."
A question: when performing a piece of evaluation of some music from, say from the 70s or 80s, how would you characterise the work being done? Here's my guess:
At a simple level, reminisences of youthful obsessions must be pleasant, otherwise those BBC2/C4 nostalgia shows could have no appeal. Beyond that, if there is a rich set of associations that is cued by the music, then these linkages can be played at will in the act of re-evaluation: self-tinkering. Furthermore, by considering the music in a larger (social/political/economic) context a new set of connections are made: rewiring.
[I'm sorry if this is all rather naive: I've never had much of an appetite for important music, so I'm on foreign ground here.]
For this to work at a collective level it would seem that you need people with similar tastes and experiences so that cultural artifacts can act as common places where associations can be gathered. But given the vagueries of the culture industry, where formative experiences are subject to consumer choice, this is isn't that common, even among individuals of similar class and geographic backgrounds. Hence the disruption caused by concurrent questions of which music is actually any good, worthy of serious discussion, etc.
In medieval monasticism a commonality of foundations could be enforced by carefully worked out scriptural pedagogy. (See Ivan Illich, Vineyard of the Text.) Until recently, the shared educational background of liberal arts people allowed for the use of a secular canon. (Although this didn't function at the same degree of intensity, more often acting as middle-class neck verse.) Students of magick are required to memorise tables of correspondences. Etc.
What strikes me about Beckett's work is that is seems to be able to drop all of this. If it works on the audience's nerves, it isn't through the machinery of cultural memory.
[So in conclusion.. um... te-tum, te-tum... end.]
The switch to Beckett was a bit abrupt, wasn't it, rx? Even ignoring issue of production vs consumption. Should have mentioned TS Eliot: "the Great Tradition requires a human host."
"Perhaps the only reason i consider myself an intelligent man is that i have never in my life been able to either begin or finish anything."
"Notes from Underground" is a key book for me too. Not a book to live your life by but a book you have to return to again and again in order to shake yourself up. It forms a pair in my head with Melvilles "Bartleby the Scivener": both books that JUST WONT LET GO. (and if there was a third part to the pair i suppose it would be beckett's "Company").
Great post, cheers.
this is definitely one of the first posts you've made where I felt that you were right and that
I may be wrong
speaking as someone whose intellect is largely
a result of that "sick bad Christian trap of glorifying suffering"
I hear you
fascism is all too enticing
I tend to end up listening to a lot of Swans
and a lot of Joy Division
and Curtis' aesthetic interest in fascism
is a thing of record
There's a tension between the evolutionary imperatives sometimes in evidence here--"It is time to evolve!"--and the final sentence of this post--"All we've got is now." As you know the dialectic of enlightenment is between superstition and reason, between the promise of heaven and the revolutionary now. Its a rare Marxist though that can resist Messianic futurity, and the use of the future anterior; to tell us what will have happened once certain conditions come into being. To harbor transcendental urges, to speak the future in code. The radicality of Marx, and Ballard, and Burroughs, on the other hand, resides in their claim upon the here and now, the present tense of their works; as such I get tense whenever we start talking negatively about these screaming, meaty monkeys, as if we will simply spoon the pulpy animal bit out of our skull-bowl and be done with it. Perhaps when we're simply brains bobbing in cybernetic fluid? ("How will we sip our tea?" quoth the anglo-cretin). No one knows what a monkey-body can do? On the other hand, Mick and Keef are with you:
"Well, I am just a monkey man
I'm glad you are a monkey woman too
I was bitten by a boar
I was gouged and I was gored
But I pulled it on through
Yes, I'm a sack of broken eggs
I always have an unmade bed
Well, I hope we're not too messianic
Or a trifle too satanic
We love to play the blues"
None of which is intended as a deflation of your points, which I hope is (joyfully) clear, but to warn against Oedipus-Complex even here; killing off our monkey fathers comes at the cost of neurosis. Rather let's comfort the angry monkey, and sing him softly to sleep.
A great post indeed. Some cursory thoughts spring immediately to mind:
1) By sheer coincidence, I happened to be listening to The Fall's “Grotesque” last night. Now am I wrong in positing that one can listen to “Grotesque”, read "The Time is Now: An Incitement to Action" – and, as they converge, wonder where one begins and the other ends? [That's a compliment, by the way, if anyone happens to have any doubts.]
2) Eddie Prévost on Cornelius Cardew (liner notes to the CD reissue of “AMMMusic”):
"The strange branch of Marxist-Leninism which Cor embraced now looks (in retrospect) so extraordinarily English and religious in its puritanism. I was never sure whether Cor couldn't forgive himself for being upper-middle class and/or bohemian, or whether he simply wanted to expand his life experience into what he conceived of as working-class. I readily acknowledge that his Marxism enabled him to express feelings for fellow human beings and declare his class affiliations – yet he was so often ill at ease with certain people."
3) Jameson on Kubrick's "The Shining": the devastating critique of the American underclass psyche that Burroughs chose to ignore. Beneath its red herring, horror genre surface, the film is a timely – the immediate pre-dawn of the Reagan era (Kubrick was no dummy; he knew what was coming) – investigation of the nihilist/murderous desire of the underclass to be, well, put in their place. In a nutshell, if you want to know why the American underclass would willingly, suicidally embrace Reagan, Bush(es), et al. – I refer you to Kubrick’s film.
Now, consider Jack Nicholson’s character as a specifically late 20th century North American take on the Underground Man. (I had never before thought of this analogy until I read your post.) One hundred years on and a continent removed, forget solitary theorizing and analysis. In place of prodigious intellect, the Nicholson character is instead in possession of a hazily understood adherence to what amounts to nothing more than a set of bankrupt signifiers. He aspires to be a writer; not because he has something to convey, and not even because he necessarily displays a talent for the technical act of writing. No, in this world, “writing” – art – is devoid of any substance beyond its relation to capital. To the Nicholson character, a “writer” is a person of vaguely defined, twisted surfaces of social achievement and class status: an “intellect”, a “name” – a celebrity of sorts, a (financial) “success”. Such are the corrupt “values” – constructed on a bedrock of violence and bloody oppression (the American frontier) – of a binary universe of unchallenged capital.
A few years ago, a student of mine offered the most succinctly insightful (and perhaps greatest) analysis of "The Shining" that I've ever heard:
"Rupert Pupkin in the Rockies".
Unrelated, perhaps. Or not. I listened to "Grotesque" around 4 a.m., fell asleep and had a dream that I was in a record shop in Manchester, at which I found an LP (not CD) by someone by the name of "Elton Deleuze".
Make of that what you will.
Now please don't mind me. Carry on....
C'mon RX, nail the point, you know you want to mate!
Scarboi, there's a natural arc from Swans / Joy Division to Curtis Mayfield, Scientist and Parliament -- usually via Tackhead. Still -- Dead Souls, eh? You're right: (Ian) Curtis' interest in fascism was precisely as articulated by Mark here.
Wicked post, Julian Myers. "the dialectic of enlightenment is between superstition and reason, between the promise of heaven and the revolutionary now." See what you mean. I'd express it with less of a Grand Narrative.
"Rather let's comfort the angry monkey, and sing him softly to sleep." Excellent, I do agree. Though the monkey need not go to sleep to be comforted. The monkey is wise; it is the monkey which gets all excited about little scenes (like the one we're building now, like the ones K-Punk's targets seek to destroy).
Carter M: a record shop in Manchester you say? Hmmm. Instant connection with scarboi...
Paul, if I had a point I'd have my own blog rather than cluttering up someone else's with increasing tenuous comments.
Can I just say I'm really blown away by these comments? Too distracted with other things at the moment to fully engage, but carry on, please, carry on ....
Found my way to "notes from the underground" via Colin Wilson some 20+ years ago... blew me away when I (duh!) made the linkage from Devoto to Dostoesky's 'beetle man'. Favourite line: "I could have been Raskolnikov/but Mother Nature ripped me off".
Funny you should mention "Grotesque"...MES as misanthropic 'beetle man'/Outsider, anyone?
Ditto: Tackhead. Ran into Devoto once at a mid-eighties Tackhead gig. "I used to be a grave-digger," he said drolly, by way of explanation. Then shrugged and wandered off.
kek- yeh - Devoto got Dostoyesky into the charts twice lol
Julian - I'd like you to say more --- I'd say it was always time to involve, not evolve --- creative involution as D/G say!
also see your point about the monkey language --- in no way want to endorse that prog tech story of advancement beyond the meat -- no it's a question of a journey out of the organism towards the BwO --- an out to body experience as Nick once put it ---
Carter, you've connected three of my favourite things ever in a way that I'd never previously thought of --- brilliant --- funny thing is I had the lyrics to 'c n c's mithering' in my head yesterday randomly when I was going to meet Luke for his birthday --- and later the lovely Jim Evergreen Daze was recommending Mick Middles' book on The Fall to me --- so it was very much a Fall day ---
But kek-w I don't think MES is misanthropic at all --- plus the fact that he's proletarian rather than petit bourgeois makes a big difference --- also MES is more unconscious and impersonal than the UG man who was hyperconscious and hyperpersonal --- a patching together of media, psychic and other signal --- MES is more like heronbone I think!!!
So many things to say and no time to say them; I've got a dissertation to write and editors to nag. So a couple elaborations in abbreviated/artless form.
1) Gotcha re: evolution/involution (though I'd want to think more about what that means in terms of life-practices). I have misgivings about the new biologies argument, I guess, being so close to something like McLuhan's evolutionary model--"we are developing new organs", etc. What you call prog tech. Marx's argument against religion is: to hell with all these promises of justice and pleasure in the afterlife! Transforming the now is what matters. Keep a tight hold on the NOW, mark its what keeps your use of sci-fi from slipping into McLuhan/evolutionary lingo...its what makes it compelling.
2) Not sure how important Frankfurt School is to you--(it's obvious we're riffing on slightly different bodies of literature!). I reread Dialectic of Enlightenment a few times this summer and their critique of enlightenment is quite powerful, though accompanied by phobic dread of the animalistic masses. alarms sound in my head when the masses are demonized in this way (hence "zombie" analogy a while back)...though perhaps you're wanting out of this dialectic altogether?
3 )It may be important to watch out against the dread of the primitive in us; perhaps they're drives (and creatures) that can be re-colonized in turn: "involved" rather than mercilessly e-volved. Some of these monkeys are quite clever. As Freud, among others, wrote we banish the primate at our peril, at the peril of them careening back into consciousness with even more force; perhaps better to sublimate, divert, to sing them lullabies. Or slip them a mickey if we must.