Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.1

One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).

Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:

  • 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
  • 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
  • 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
  • 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
  • 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
  • When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).

When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.

From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!

But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.


Sources:

Harris Poll: Americans’ Sense of Alienation Remains at Record High

Rising Morbidity & Morality in Midlife Among White, non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.

Nautilus: Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

Jisho

Dionysus or Aphrodite? The Porn/Erotica Distinction, Prt. 1

Observe the cover image; is it pornographic or erotic or is there no worthy distinctions to be drawn between such fickle words at all?

The argument about how human sexuality should be properly represented in the arts is a extremely old one with three broad factions splitting up the lion share of opinions. Either sexuality should be displayed as the artist pleases – no holds barred – or, there should be some kind of restrictions placed upon sexualization (whether in regard to sex acts or simply mood/lighting/setting and more numinous aesthetic parameters) or that sex and sensuality in art should be harshly suppressed if not outright banned. Regardless of which camp (if any) one falls into in this discussion, on matters of sex-in-art there is a ever present question: Is it erotica or is it porn? Let us turn our attention, briefly, to some linguistic definitions for these two words to help use in navigating the murky terrain established by these two rather nebulous terms.

pornography (n.) – 1843, “ancient obscene painting, especially in temples of Bacchus,” from French pornographie, from Greek pornographos “(one) depicting prostitutes,” from porne “prostitute,” originally “bought, purchased” (with an original notion, probably of “female slave sold for prostitution”), related to pernanai “to sell” (from PIE *perə-, variant of root “to traffic in, to sell”) + graphein “to write”. A brothel in ancient Greek was a porneion.

erotica (n.) – 1820, noun use of neuter plural of Greek erotikos “amatory” (see erotic); originally a booksellers’ catalogue heading. erotic (adj.) – 1650s, from the French érotique (16c.), from Greek erotikos “caused by passionate love/referring to love,” from eros (genitive erotos) “sexual love.”

There is then, something inherently commercial and prurient about pornography embedded within the word itself whereas erotica, definitively, is more inter-personal (booksellers’ catalog connotation aside).

Archetypally speaking, these distinct categories are perhaps best personified by the Greek gods, Dionysus and Aphrodite. Dionysus was classically represented as a young, beautiful man (in older depictions he was bearded and gaudily dressed), often nude; the deity of wine, intoxication, rituals, madness, religious ecstasy and theatre. Aphrodite, contrary to many modernistic conceptions of the goddess, was not a being of carnal delight but of love, child bearing, civic unity, the sea (from which she was born) and, in dire times, war (due her relationship with Ares, god of War). Dionysus – (or Bacchus, as he was later known) a transient being of lasciviousness, celebration and epiphany, who appeared to his followers randomly, wildly bestowing gifts of wine and joyous madness, disappearing just as suddenly as he had come – might then be seen as an embodiment or harbinger of both the brevity and bliss of carnality.

In contrast, Aphrodite was a lasting goddess, that is, she was a being of continuance, of that which lasted and withstood the test of time (births being the most notable example of this – a continuation of the species being the most potent and lasting of all human pursuits).

Sex, under the auspices of Aphrodite, was ultimately tied to love and was seen as an eminently sacred enterprise, so much so that her priests (all female) took strict vows of chastity. Bacchanalians, however, were possessed of no such sacral impulse (due to Dionysus’ affinity for transgression of all things) as Dionysus and would often congregate in orgiastic rituals where all sexes and ages would copulate with wild abandon. So disturbing were these lascivious displays of Dionysian Orgia in 186 BC the Roman Senate attempted a catch-all ban – called the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus (senatorial decree concerning the Bacchanalia) – on the Dionysian religion itself to put an end to the supposedly sexually depraved displays.

Senatus_consultum_de_bacchanalibus
Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus, 186 BC

So as a linguistic dialectic, the pornographic/erotic distinction might best be seen as a distinction between these two divine aspect, that of Dionysus and Aphrodite, bliss of momentary carnal delight and the dutiful cultivation of those emotional bonds and by extension, social bonds, which foster the continued procession of humanity itself.

Pornography, thus, is generally considered “in bad taste” or “base” because it is a inherently selfish enterprise and one which has very low time-horizons. Any individual who pleasures himself or herself to the Bacchanalian displays of the thousands of porn sites across the web is elevating the senses for but a brief moment. The action can not be built upon in any meaningful way, societally speaking (and in this age to speak of the actions of people is, in no uncertain terms, to be speaking of some aspect of some society – for how common are the hermits!). In many ways the pornographic ritual of self-pleasuring is lower than the Bacchanalia, for in the latter instance one was, at the very least bonding both with his/her community and with the terrestrial aspects of Dionysus himself.

 


Sources:

http://www.etymonline.com: [1. Pornography] [2. Erotica]

Oxford Classical Dictionary, eds. S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth (Oxford, 20033 ), pp. 479-482

 

Anthropomorphization: Ward & Executioner, Prt 3 [Coda]

In the previous installment of this millipedesque series I attempted to examine the ways that innate pattern seeking can lead to philosophies which are either distanced from human-valuing (whether proportionally or in sum-total) such as certain Christian-influenced strains of right-leaning esoteric naturalism (Man is insignificant to Mother Earth) or outright opposed to them such as Greenpeace Envirocrats (Man is detrimental/antithetical to Mother Earth).

Though I roundly criticized the reactionary notion of GNON (though it is highly useful) and the progressive notion of “Enviromental Human Impact-Reduction” (which is similarly useful but more dangerous) I would like to make clear that I am not possessed of that most singular desire to burn things for the sake thereof. One might recall one of those pin-striped, botoxed GOP’ers who, grinning like a hyena and adjusting the Israeli lapel, will proudly declare, “I’ll buy a jeep if I want. I’ll drive it as much as I want. I’ll use as much fuel as I want. Why? Because that’s freedom.”

This ideology, silly as it is (and yes, I gave a purposefully hyperbolic example), actually exists and is, of a absolute certainty, more oft to be found in those members of the GOP and their sympathizers who hold as gospel the collective works of Ayn Rand and believe Bernie Sanders to be literally insane (he isn’t, his ideas are just bad). This kind of thinking is basically, “Because I can, I shalt.” It’s low, low time-horizons but hell, it’s damned patriotic.

Nor am I unconcerned about the environment. Indeed, it axiomatically follows that without a stable and life-conducive environment human life would not be possible and as such there are few things in the long-term that are more important (provided one cares about Man’s continued existence). Where I differ from the shamanistic Envirocrats is that I am primarily concerned with the propensity of a environment to contribute to human survival and flourishing. In short I want environments that are good for Man whereas Greenpeacers generally prefer environments that are good unto themselves. Naturally, this makes little sense and to illustrate this let us consider a world that is filled with nothing but trees and grass; is there such a thing as the good in such a world? It seems highly unlikely given that trees are not possessed of any discernible cognizance and even if it were discovered that they were in fact cognizant a further question would need be plied – to what degree? To a degree equal to our own sophistication, to that of a dogs, a dolphin’s? I think not.

We could go further and take life out of it altogether for the sake of simplicity just to drive home the point. Let us consider a world all of rocks and water, proto-earth – is there a good or a way in which The Environment could be improved or degraded? No. There would be no conscious agent to impart meaning and meaning is lost in the death of the witness. A world without a witness is a world without meaning (which one might remark in passing, is the great tragedy of God – a article on that another time).

Therefore, we should place our primary concern upon human flourishing as the highest priority and not seek to live in some kind of hippy-dippy “harmony” with nature such that our concerns and “Her” concerns are equally taken into consideration. “She” hasn’t any. “She” just is.

Anthropomorphization: Ward & Executioner, Prt 2

In Anthropomorphization: Ward & Executioner, Prt 1, I attempted to show how important the innate impulse to anthropomorphize non-living entities was by contrasting its best (predatory detection) and worst (blaming non-living things for the havoc of conscious malevolence and thus neglecting the true culprit) aspects. I would now like to investigate the ways in which feckless anthropomorphization influences broader social systems and how it gives rise to, and sustains, various secular orthodoxies.

It is a common misconception among Liberals, Centrists and Progressives in the west, that only religious individuals map a consciousness onto the ordering of the world to better explain its manifold aspects. However, this is quite manifestly false, as even the most “open-minded” and progressive of egalitarian secularists hold to a system of dogmas, scriptures, rituals and traditions which in its structure (though not in its explicit doctrinal values) bears striking similarities to that of the old monotheistic religions.

Take the Green Peace Movement, for example. Here is a group whose mission statement is to, “-ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its [bio]diversity.” [1] One can see the confusion inherent in the sentence nearly instantly, for what does it mean for “The Earth to nurture life?” The unconscious framing is that The Earth’s purpose or goal is to care for all its inhabitants like Mother Gaia from Captain Planet. A loving, nurturing and caring entity, Green Peace envisions Earth, not as a enormous rock spinning through space that happens to harbor a biosphere, but rather a enormous rock that intended to harbor a biosphere and that is willfully part and parcel of that very system. It is, in this fashion that Green Peace’s ethos begins to sound an awful lot like the NRx conception of Gnon (Nature’s God).

The very excellent and incisive, Kristor of the Orthosphere remarks:

“Nature is nothing without her God. By herself, she is no more than a series of adventitious events, not as a whole ordered to any purpose transcendent to herself – which is to say, not ordered. Except insofar as they are grounded in Eternity and ordered under his Law, events are just stuff happening for no reason, and cannot therefore by themselves sway us authoritatively.”

The summation seems a popular one in reactionary circles, but I find, here and there, faults with the reasoning. First and foremost is that, regardless of whether or not there is a intelligent ordering to the cosmos there are inexorable laws and there is a order to things, or rather, discernible patterns that brook no argumentation; laws which remain consistent and potent regardless of their ultimate derivation. For instance, it matters not, as regards the effecting of Man, whether or not some being causes the seas to churn or the wind to blow, they churn and blow all the same and Man is similarly effected. Also, he remarks that without a “transcendent purpose” the whole of Nature is “not ordered.” This I suppose is true in that for something to be “ordered” a conscious agent must do the ordering. But it seems to me that he is referring to consistency of structure rather than agency – if this is the case then one might simply posit that there is no reason to suppose that Eternal Laws require conscious writ. Additionally, such a universal ordering would deprive Man of the ability to direct the nature of the Cosmos insofar as he was able, such a venture would be heretical and roundly scorned as hubristic insanity – “How dare you play God!” One might well remark, “To the man that wishes for the grandest possible game, what else is there to play?”

Ultimately, GNON is simply a esoteric stepping stone that the orthodox-faithful Christians utilize in a veiled attempt to convert the questioning and opened minded. This is not to say that it is useless (indeed, it is a marked boon for the Christian Traditionalist) but for those, such as myself, who are possessed of a more terrestrially-centered and empirically demanding outlook, it rings to the tune of self-imbued anthropomorphization (contrary to the unconscious anthropomophization of the conversationalist Envirocrats).

I note these assertions and interjections to show you the congruence between the monotheistic conception of Nature and their Green Peace contemporaries. Man, within this schema, is ultimately insignificant to the vastness of space, even the meager oceans dwarf him – scale gains inordinate importance and drowns out all other attributions until it becomes something of a idee-fixe. The Cosmos is so BIG and man is so SMALL – thus he must be insignificant! Bow to the root and vine, kiss the soil and bless the sky! Thy selfsame meaning, lost therein!

I’ll none of it. This philosophy is a thief! If you think I’m waxing melodramatic then let us return to the maxim on Greenpeace‘s website:

Greenpeace will never stop fighting for a greener, healthier world for our oceans, forests, food, climate, and democracy—no matter what forces stand in our way.

As you can see they are not fighting “for you” or even for anything as abstract as “Mankind” they are fighting for oceans, for forests, for democracy (as if that were liken to the other two)! No mention of human flourishing, no mention of human control, no mention of the unique importance of conscious creatures or their singular ability to generate meaning – all for the water and the trees and thy bureaucratic injunctions!

Before proceeding, I want to make clear that I am not wholly equating the ontology of GNONists with the ontology of Greenpeace, but one can not deny a striking number of similarities. Foremost among them – Purity of the “Natural.” For members of Greenpeace, and most other political environmental movements since the 1960s (and a few well before), for that matter, green growing things and democracy are conducive to the “healthy” state of man. Autocracy and skyscrapers are perversions, cancerous blights upon the world and not just aesthetically but in some kind of deep-seated psychologically harmful sense – a quasi-spiritual sense. Here the, what one might call for brevity’s sake, Envirocrats, have developed their own Original Sin mythos, strikingly similar to the orthodox Christian who seek to reel in the unsuspecting naturalist with their lengthy, sometimes obtuse, discourse on the essence of GNON. Both posit that the world was a healthier place before the arrival of man (at least in the Christian inspired variation of GNONism – i.e. Garden of Eden, Fall of Man – though there are exceptions), that most foul and perverted of beasts, who, through his insatiable ambitions, spread the blight of the coal factory and shopping mall far and wide and, through his thriving, spat upon the altar of the deity. Nevermind the benefits, you’ve displaced the flowers!

Though deity, here, for the GNONist, is, sometimes a literal one, sometimes a figurative placeholder, the deity for the Environmentalist is a impulsive, implicit instance of unconscious anthropomorphization. Despite the variables, the typical outcome is much the same; that being a largely non-human (and in many cases, outright anti-human) philosophy.

The truth of this assertion is well attested to by the constant mantra of the Envirocrat: “We need to lessen human impact for the good of the planet!” Carbon footprints, fuel usage, deforestation, destruction of grand geological formations for the creation of more human-friendly habitats – all such actions are, in their eyes, suicidal motions. Suicidal not to Collective Humanity but to The Earth upon which they live! Envirocrat doctrine then does not champion the control of the environment but rather a poorly defined notion of “harmony” with it. If the end goal is to “lessen” human impact as much as possible then the philosophy, when carried to its logical extremis, terminates at the formulation of a world without humanity at all.

One of my more pop-savvy readers might recall the scene in the film Watchman where Dr. Manhattan looks out across the vast and barren surface of Mars and remarks that the planet would not be be somehow improved by the addition of a shopping mall. God-like though he might be he fails horribly as some rather entry-level reasoning, namely, a planet, in no discernible wise, can want anything, not even its own improvement. A planet is a rock a big one, generally with molten core, but a rock all the same.

The GNONists are far wiser in this regard, rightly understanding that some kind of perfect “harmony” with nature is impossible. To quote the Orthosphere’s Kristor once more,

“The world is dangerous, or it is nothing.”

Quite so. Yet the GNONist still see Nature as something that should not be too much tampered with, for it is God’s garden and he who runs there afoul invokes His wrath. But if such dire invocation is the necessary price that needs be paid in the pursuit of man’s upward ascent and dispersal into the grand ambit of space and from there to other worlds and other pursuits far beyond our present understanding, I say, so be it!