Tag Archives: poverty

Taking A Charge In A Zero Sum Moment

scale
Scale To Talent
samplex

Originally published on May 29, 1996

Hey Ben—your note has me dialing for symptoms and just the right synonyms to match your own interesting English sentences spinning doughnuts around my memory, into the read-only memes that keep us satisfied in being outselves. Thanks for writing back in English because I have no German except in my pop's heritage. You wrote:

Caught up in words as they are. "Work" means "making money" and free-time is meant to be for recreation. In Germany, in the mid-eighties, when unemployment was a popular discussion, one heard of the "human right to work". This was twisty. I wonder why people need someone to tell them what to work, although they need some money I anticipate. Well I'd welcome NO WORK...

Yes, Ben (he says, like Peter Sellers as Chauncey Gardener to the old dying billionaire). My wife's mother recently lectured her on the topic. With this common interpretation sharp on her peacewhittling tongue, she was of course probing with ages rich mother-in-law cynicism MY own twisted unAmerican state of NO WORK. Meanwhile, I acknowledge that I appear to jealous acquaintences quite blessed among men for lack of a regimented work burden, or entitlement, depending one one's perspective. My wife has been convinced finally that I am best kept at home in the privacy of my whirling mind and Dollhouse, near her cold indifferent fingers but warm toasty heart. I admit I feel rather insecure anywhere else, and tend to drink myself into an explosive reproach to the bickering myths of strataculture every time I step out into the bustling city of lights, armed with little but the urgency for escape from any number of circulating yet dreaded theories of nightlife which haunt me because I am nothing without MY WORK, as sluggish and apparently unilluminating as it is to most who claim to know from whence arrives my artistic impulse.

Opinions are always made about money. Even the most discrimating poor among us, myself included, gaze upon it and are corrupted with envy and linguistic violence and strident motives to obtain it, or else are saddled with an indifference that leads us into bitter arguments swapped for obsessive compulsive choices as wretched and concrete and ugly as a proper sum of money ever was.
I keep busy making sure I have a contortionist's name for myself, or else in the minds of my severest critics, I keep busy shining names and nuances behind barstools and bushel baskets of cloudy arguments where lightning strikes swiftly and severely against the surface of old arguments whose welcome is long gone. With only slight exaggerations, I work every waking moment. My wife complains that I don't know how to relax, partially true, rest is sleep, al else is work, if you will, to meet my strategies for survival. Fuzzy well-intentioned logic like educated guesswork and informed interpolation, however, is the grace the unequipped will never face, and for their ignorance they will probably perish with their lessening winds. My dreamstates are work, are tools, are kids in the sandbox and I embrace them just as voyeurs do when at the movies, peering into someone else's dreams and ideological documentation.

But back to the idea of work and money. My wife pays nearly all the bills. This is true. She feels the burden of her job, of course, but she brags about what it brings her in prestige and buying power of argument and freedom when dealing with the host of projects at our command, basic insecurities about the future notwithstanding. If I bring in a dollar, I give it to somebody else, usually her, or to the computer industry. I am an accomplice within the digital revolution, a footsoldier, an enlisted tattooed man, OCS candidate, a homefront evangelizer as I stare past the garbage, glass shards, dilapidated structures, and confusion from my Dollhouse perch which serves me well enough as fresh air and culture, such as they are in Nero's regime.

Surrounded by mediocrity and prejudice, great practitioners of liberal slander refuse to intuit my disguise as the very one they tout in their own philosophies. My sockets burn sometimes with urgency to fly somewhere, anywhere else where I can explode past the loose meaning of contemporary friendship into the netherland of a more pure synchronicity of duty, loyalty, purpose, and comprehension.

In other news, this rainy season is driving all the yard bugs inward, ants and cockroaches multiplying themselves and immigrating to my turf as if they "owned the joint". Fighting against the corruption of the material is the only fight worth dying for, but dying is a losing cause. I hate dying.

WORK IS ENERGY. Money is a contaminating conversion and byproduct, safe only in proper prospective, because money corrupts everyone who surrenders to it. Opinions are always made about money. Even the most discrimating poor among us, myself included, gaze upon it and are corrupted with envy and linguistic violence and strident motives to obtain it, or else are saddled with an indifference that leads us into bitter arguments swapped for obsessive compulsive choices as wretched and concrete and ugly as a proper sum of money ever was.

My love she speaks like silence. Without ideals or violence.
She doesn't have to say she's faithful. Yet she's true, like ice, like fire.
Bob Dylan

Pure work frees man from the analysis of money. Am I a hypocrite for pointing this out? Am I a hypocrite because I love to spend money? Am I a hypocrite because I have argued, successfully it seems, to remain at home, supported by a woman who is hardly Artist or fraud, simply to allow the chips to fall where they may? Am I a hypocrite because I am aging, ugly or fat, conspiring to destroy faith in humanity's surge to crawl up from the tidal mud known as the Anti-Hip instead of being that dazzling, thin, strategically well-placed well-pocketed and quasibeautifully hip? The trickle down economies of Art and Finance are not dissimilar; as Ezra Pound's crackling contentions about art, economics, and war, and William Gaddis in his terrific novel—The Recognitions—have revealed.

The few who know the ropes either play them to bizarre lengths or avoid them with the meanest of miseries. The rest of us argue ourselves straight into a double-edged niche, and so it becomes us, our sentence for which parole is repeatedly denied, despite any makeshift theories to the contrary, we or some other highly paid or dollar dead genius devises for us in the meantime.
You have postulated Ben, that "people get occupied in a way, they forget to handle NO WORK. You know that, I suggest, but do you also know that contemplation, the force of passivity, I mean not producing, maybe on a journey? Oh, yes, you are a gardener too. Many people have to work, to ease their artificial bad conscience."

I understand what you are saying. If I say to somebody "I am a writer." Or a painter, or a traveler, or a flute player, am I less so because no muscle has called me up on the telephone to offer me a job or a contract? Am I any less a gardener if no one has offered to snap a polaroid of my roses or send me on an all-expense paid holiday to the Alpines to discuss breeding techniques. Does it matter whether I eat poorly like the beast I resemble, or whether I eat in eloquent gusto like a fancy fat French chef buttering his own bread in Paris? The human right to work and the human right to be hip are not too far apart on the GT scale of impossible tasks hustling among so many and so stupid a population always electromagnetic & naked in the catbird seat, but ever so snobbishly none the wiser...

But we, despite our best attempts to avoid or embrace symptoms bunkered down in unappealing ratios of human production and consumption, drunk from the fountain of fair green idealism, we too succumb to the same pitfalls in one flavor or another as any other poke even as we like to feel superior and just a bit more enlightened in comparison. We struggle against struggle not knowing how to slip the knot that binds us.

Basically Ben, I feel most people desire everything they think they can handle. Most of us don't know when to start OR stop the false lures of desire outside the domain of self-interest. The few who know the ropes either play them to bizarre lengths or avoid them with the meanest of miseries. The rest of us argue ourselves straight into a double-edged niche, and so it becomes us, our sentence for which parole is repeatedly denied, despite any makeshift theories to the contrary, we or some other highly paid or dollar dead genius devises for us in the meantime.

But it's been my experience to observe that poverty-stepping revolutionaries are not content with merely doing next to nothing, or running some small underground bookstore which suits them for a few seasons. Soon enough they want capitalism to give them more than they have managed to accumulate. Invariably they clamor for more money or more free time as if freedom of choice requires a zero sum cure using social algebra and a bad attitude. My guess is that like Mother Nature, it's not often you can cheat Father Capitalism.

GT

P.S. “It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it's more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, the capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It's only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.”

—Malcolm X

The Stirner Approach

vanishing-man
Vanishing Individual
samplex

Originally published on March 18, 2003

David Westling wrote:
I found your essay provocative, if a little too sweeping; but essentially I agree. What is your opinion of the role of radical egoism (Stirner) in the revolution that dada could have embodied? Is there an archive of postings that I can access to see what threads of discussion there have been? Thank you for your attention.

I write:
Thanks sir, for your interest in the Scenewash Project website. Unfortunately the work has stalled in its present dormant state for more than three years now, a state precipitated by the rudderless and noisy self-interest of several persons of varying ages and backgrounds scattered across the globe joined together as compatriots only to embark on a no-holds barred investigation we hoped would lead us to an "immediate" worldview, a worldview that both interpreted the world as we know it, and one that deployed us with the marching orders surely every proud intelligence would both recognize as brutally honest and timelessly truthful earmarked for the gristmill of the spectacular society with its impending doom of logical and illogical combatants.

I blame our ultimate failure on the impetuous motives of youth. Half of us were still in college. The other half were in our forties and self-learned (forgive the failures of this particular term, since no one learns in a vacuum, but then collective learning is a misnomer as well). We sputted about for a couple of years and finally spun out without much ado. Of course, the collective project's demise was sealed months, even a year or so before September 11. That dreadful day did nothing to bring us any new energies, and so the project, at least in its collective form, ceased to exist. My plans to return the project to its original state as a personal work is moving forward only in small periodic increments.

Provocative? Yes. First and foremost. Nothing if not provocative. A little too sweeping? Ah, another fine visit from the most frequent criticism aimed at me. No harm done however. Indeed, the problem as I've seen it has always been tackling the universal problem of the balkanization of the universal, and yet while loathing cliche and sloganeering as useless placebos of individual freedom, I have not given myself over to the ultimate work, avoiding it as a painful and perhaps worthless departure from the daily toils of tending to my wife's own dead ends.

However, I make no excuses.

As to Stirner, this is all I know...

STIRNER, MAX, was the nom de plume of the German individualist philosopher Johann Kaspar Schmidt. Born in Bayreuth, Bavaria, Schmidt had a poor childhood (like myself). His academic career was long and fragmented. I am uneducated, while sponging from the world of books and media like there is no other purpose to life than to had read tto much to be of any worldly good.

From 1826 to 1828 Stirner, however, studied philosophy at the University of Berlin, where he fell under the influence of Hegel. After brief periods at the universities of Erlangen and Konigsberg, he returned to Berlin in 1832 and with some difficulty gained a certificate to teach in Prussian Gymnasiums. Several years of poverty and unemployment followed, until Schmidt found a position as teacher in a Berlin academy for young ladies run by a Madame Gropius. After this he lived something of a double life: the respectable teacher of young ladies also marked time as the aspiring philosophical writer who assumed the name of Stirner.

The immediate stimulus that provoked Stirner to write his one important book, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (Leipzig, 1845; translated by Steven T. Byington as The Ego and His Own, New York, 1907), was his association with the group of young Hegelians known as Die Freien (the "free ones"), who met under the leadership of the brothers Bruno and Edgar Bauer. In this company Stirner met Marx, Engels, Arnold Ruge, Georg Herwegh, and many other revolutionary intellectuals. In the same circle he also met Marie Dahnhardt, whom he married in 1843 and who left him in 1847. Before the publication of his book Stirner produced only a few brief periodical pieces, including an essay on educational methods printed by Karl Marx in Rheinische Zeitung.

His thought. Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, a treatise in defense of philosophic egoism, carried to its extreme the young Hegelian reaction against Hegel's teachings. In part it was a bitter attack on contemporary philosophers, particularly those with social inclinations. Stirner's associates among Die Freien were rejected as strongly as Hegel and Feuerbach.

Stirner's approach was characterized by a passionate anti-intellectualism which led him to stress the will and the instincts as opposed to the reason. He attacked systematic philosophies of every kind, denied all absolutes, and rejected abstract and generalized concepts of every kind. At the center of his vision he placed the human individual, of whom alone we can have certain knowledge; each individual, he contended, is unique, and this uniqueness is the very quality he must cultivate to give meaning to his life. Hence, he reached the conclusion that the ego is a law unto itself and that the individual owes no obligations outside himself. All creeds and philosophies based on the concept of a common humanity are, in Stirner's view, false and irrational; rights and duties do not exist; only the might of the ego justifies its actions.

There is much in common between Stirner's embattled ego and Nietzsche's superman; indeed, Stirner was seen as a forerunner of Nietzsche during the 1890s.

Stirner has often been included with the anarchist philosophers, and he has much in common with them. However, he differs from writers like Godwin, Proudhon, and Kropotkin in that the idea of a system of natural law, or immanent justice, which human law negates, is essential to their points of view. Stirner, however, rejected the idea of any such law, and in this respect he stands nearer to certain existentialists and the nihilists, Furthermore, while the anarchist seeks freedom as his ultimate goal, Stirner regarded such an aim as always being limited by external necessities; in its place he sought uniqueness or "ownness." "Every moment," he said, "the fetters of reality cut the sharpest welts in my flesh. But my own I remain."

Stirner agreed with the anarchists, however, in regarding the state as the great enemy of the individual who seeks to fulfill his "own will," The state and the self-conscious and willful ego cannot exist together; therefore the egoist must seek to destroy the state, but by rebellion rather than by revolution. This distinction is essential to Stirner's doctrine. Revolution, in overthrowing an established order, seeks to create another order; it implies a faith in institutions. Rebellion is the action of individuals seeking to rise above the condition they reject; it "demands that one rise, or exalt oneself." Revolution is a social or political act; rebellion is an individual act, and therefore appropriate to the egoist. If rebellion prospers, the state will collapse.

In rebellion the use of force is inevitable, and Stirner envisaged "the war of each against all," in which the egoist fights with all the means at his command. This viewpoint led Stirner to justify and even to exalt crime. Crime is the assertion of the ego, the rejection of the sacred. The aim of egoist rebellion is the free wielding of power by each individual.

In Stirner's view the end of this process is not conflict but a kind of dynamic balance of power between men aware of their own might, for the true egoist realizes that excessive possessions and power are merely limitations on his own uniqueness. His assertion is based on the absence of submissiveness in others; the withdrawal of each man into his uniqueness lessens rather than increases the chance of conflict, for "as unique you have nothing in common with the other any longer, and therefore nothing divisive or hostile either." Stirner argued that far from producing disunity among individuals, egoism allows the freest and most genuine of unions, the coming together without any set organization of the "Union of Egoists," which replace not only the state with its political repression but also society with its less obvious claims.

Later years. Der Einzige und sein Eigentum is not just a most extreme expression of individualism, it is also the single manifestation of Stirner's own revolt against a frustrating life that finally submerged him. In his totally undistinguished later years he embarked on a series of unsuccessful commercial ventures and translated English and French economists. His remaining work, Die Geschichte der Reaktion (Berlin, 1852), lacked the fire of discontent that made his earlier works provocative. Stirner's last years were shadowed by declining powers and haunted by creditors; he died poor and forgotten in 1856.


Yet another status quo philosopher, n'est pas? The world is THE WAY IT IS BECAUSE of radical egos at work and at play. The problem with Stirner's (and Nietzsche, and Ayn Rand, and yadda yadda's) brand of ME FIRST AND ONLY ideology (or anti-ideology) is that the world simply is, no matter what we or he or she believes (in ultra-competition or ultra-cooperation or the bastard hybrid we know now), and while Stirner's description of his own sense of freedom may very well describe most of the world's peculiar sense of ascendency, it does not and can not or at least should not describe it wholly. Limitless freedom is hardly freedom at all but mere tyranny (as Stirner but not Rand points out). And isn't it strange that we can find dozens of competing philosophies with which we find ourselves agreeing with on the surface, until we find ourselves in contradiction as soon as we make our first move in the eternal chess game, taffy-pull, or spelling bee down the block?

I am intrigued however with Stirner's language. Thanks for the tip. For now I have recently discovered Karl Popper, a veritable antithesis to Stirner, and so it goes. As for the archive you request, a partial archive can be found at:

[The following, marked in italics, is no longer available but I include it for memory's sake: Click on the SWILL archive link. I'd say that 60% of the original sworgster swill listserv has been archived. Again, I don't know when or how the other chunk will get posted. The server is a bit slow in returning what's already been punched into the database. There's some decent reading there if you can find it via keyword. Have fun. Join the SWILL. Suffice to say it's also dormant at this hour. Tthe other guys have bailed for one failed premise or another (always distilled to self-interest, or vital necessity in schedule, time, finances, strength, the best excuses in the world, since everybody uses them) but who knows what the future holds in store...]
Except the future does not exist until it becomes the present, even in terms of predestination or teleology.

Plucking The Wings Off An Adverb In the Gardens Of Soho

case
Once The Case Is Stated
samplex

Date: Wed Jul 17, 1996 6:52:41 PM

Hey there,

Predicted to myself yesterday's barrage would have you to scurrying back to the sanctity of a cold blessed silence. Status quo beats quid pro quo to the punchline every time, especially when I lean out my dirty window to gaze beyond the boredom of my own uselessness, activities which interest no one. Am I so obviously sick with hard-boiled narcissism in this insistence that a recounting of my own work not go unnoticed, or am I simply a brooding artist whose time will or will not come, but as we have heard said, "Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?"

Would not Socrates reply, "Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore if I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say that the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that of which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living—that you are still less likely to believe."

A dozen small birds feeding off crumbs on the courtyard steps scattered. Three or four flew away into the trees. Tom Howell stepped out from the shadows of the Arts & Craps Building, saying, "Gabriel, you're not him." Then my mother stepped away from the carriage against which she'd been leaning, saying, "Howellnyms, you can't say that about my son. That's my phrase. I've said that to him all my life. You sir, are a plagiarist!" I was left to wonder how many birds were Greek, how many of them were Roman, and how many were in the public domain. Soon, even I, knew context was lost, and only Tom Howell and probably Ludwig Wittgenstein as a young man at Trinity knew for certain who Tom was not.

When I test her limits I must make sure I count the costs and identify the potential gains. Yes dear, I am ruthless in my 41st year. That said, you just whisper the magic words, and I am soon the highway star…
No sweat, Jennifer. I too, am always quite busy, so your hesitation to commit to my discussions of sexual power perhaps never to meet the criteria I have set for an upstate tour of beauty and synthetic protocol (my choice of game, just to keep us both emphatically engaged) speaks its own name, and as such is proper and necessary for us to remain honest to the ideals of friendship and fate we have thus far delivered to each other without frank discussion but automatically over the years. Still love you, no matter what you don't do or don't say, but a love declared in this sort of absence once we have arrived there is a sterile one, a state of ill repair with which I am quite familiar.

Also, as you are aware I am in perpetual financial ruin, just as yourself at this time in your life. But my own poverty seems to be some kind of unspoken holy vow perhaps driven by a secret choice to remain free of the shackles others willingly impose on themselves so that they control those matters of purse. Yet in possessing fewer cares of the purse results in a substantially improved station in very obvious ways, not the least of them is a certain freedom not known by those fixtures of the clock and the calendar. In my own marriage situation, it is always a struggle, a tight-rope walk born out in the lives of both Sue and the husband she loves.

Only by the unfathomable graces of BS Hedrick do I eat, have a roof over my head, decent clothing, medicine, any disposable income at all. Life is more than food and shelter, of course. The fact that I overindulge in the one matter and am nearly agoraphobic in the other changes not the joy of my pursuits. When I test her limits I must make sure I count the costs and identify the potential gains. Yes dear, I am ruthless in my 41st year. That said, you just whisper the magic words, and I am soon the highway star...

To the point, just like female masturbation has been elevated in feminist literature to a goddamned political act while male masturbation remains mired in snickers, putdowns, and psychotic fallout by the feminist wag, women leap to heap ridicule on men for penis size while many a flatchested woman to the contrary feels empowered to chastise women as bimbos and pawns of the male obsession when endowed with huge mammories, boobs, whether naturally or via the easy purchase plan.
I took Landry to task for her commentary on small cocks, and she too, has answered with a resounding thud of nothingness, contrary to her usual back-atcha gonzo. Nothing overtly personal about the tone or language I used in presenting my arguments to her, but who knows, maybe I am just too ridiculous for reasonable minds to waste.

Wild, riveting discussion for its own sake is my motto, not by choice but by default as one who does not know his audience, or even if there is one to be earned. Digging for gold in a trash heap. Poking the sky full of holes with the ironies of our time. I depend on the plain writing of others to help fertilize my parched barren crops of thick gilded sentences. My language tends to get mugged with adjectives and adverbs and cheap alliteration and rhymes, all of which serve me in a fist fight but never in a slow sensual dance with my best noun. I dunno. I suppose this method of scratch and claw gets me every ounce of feedback I deserve. None of us are professional debaters, meaning none of us are burdened with the making of argument in a tense public environment on a regular for hire basis. Pouncing on friends with topics as sensitive as the ones I pitch is probably in bad taste, but then I have been frequently fingered as the Anti Hip. So to my point: women like to suggest that men are consistently fixated on size, and yet find it very natty to mock the flaccid or diminuative phallus whenever the chance arrives. Landry's own sarcastic line, typical of the type of remark associated with a liberated tongue, hey, aren't we all saddled with one of those, suggesting she could understand why the Mentors—the sick LA band of the early 90s—frolicked about like asses on stage waving long thick rubber dongs is one I felt under the circumstances of our ongoing banter about all things fuzzy & frank that required a solid well-reasoned response. To the point, just like female masturbation has been elevated in feminist literature to a goddamned political act while male masturbation remains mired in snickers, putdowns, and psychotic fallout by the feminist wag, women leap to heap ridicule on men for penis size while many a flatchested woman to the contrary feels empowered to chastise women as bimbos and pawns of the male obsession when endowed with huge mammories whether naturally or via the easy purchase plan. Of course these are sweeping generalizations both they then and I make now, but both are valid observations nevertheless for entirely different psychosexual reasons.

Understanding that I am adamantly against the right wing pontifications and their feeble interpretations of man, and God, and law, the issue is not easily thumbnailed in a few sentences. Every thought I render is just as quick to butcher another one standing in close proximity a few minutes later, unless discipline and context is imposed.
Browsing for insight a 700-page hardcover I bought several years ago called "Girls Lean Back Everywhere, The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius" by Edward de Grazia, an attorney practicing communications and First Amendment law here in DC. He was integral in the landmark Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs publishing cases, as well as the "I am Curious—Yellow" Swedish film breakthrough. I am trying to formulate a "free speech/blue ribbon" position paper to correspond to the intellectual margin my web presence requires on matters literary and artistic. The title of the book is drawn from a quote "The Little Review" editor Jane Heap made at the James Joyce "Ulysses" hearing concerning some text in question. Her magazine was the first to publish excerpts and as such felt the strong arm of the law reach out in fierce rebuttal in an attempt to smack down her artistic sensibilities. The books cover most of the 20th century court battles from Zola, Joyce, Lawrence, Miller, Burroughs, Karen Finley, 2 Live Crew right on up through Mapplethorpe in an exquisite commentary bulked up by full first hand accounts of the noted judiciary principles, and their hodge-podge of so-called principals. So far, after several hours over several days in composite, I am still unsure how to approach this position paper.

While I believe in an artist's right, or more probably, his duty, is to exploit the tools of language and all media according to her own peculiar vision, I am also dead set against public funding of this area of life. Zilch. Rock music gets along without public grants. So can photographers, writers, and painters. If not prepared to give it all, or convince a private source for sustanance, then sorry charlie. A paradigm shift of the ways in which we view both art and the marketplace may be required, but public funding is a sham and a scandal to both artlover and arthater. And while I believe that the artist should be as free to draw from real life as he sees fit, I also am certain that the media, specifically films and TV have detrimentally added to the chaos of the past several generations and the sickening decline of the individual in respect to morals as they pertain to the rights of others. Understanding that I am adamantly against the right wing pontifications and their feeble interpretations of man, and God, and law, the issue is not easily thumbnailed in a few sentences. Every thought I render is just as quick to butcher another one standing in close proximity a few minutes later, unless discipline and context is imposed. Even so, freedom of speech is hardly a fair substitute for freedom of action. They must exist hand in hand.

Plucking the wings off an adverb in the Gardens Of Soho,

GT