Tag Archives: SWILL

The Stirner Approach

vanishing-man
Vanishing Individual
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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.

SWILL: First International (Situationist)

impermanence
Impermanence Of Placement
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To: sworg-talk@scenewash.org
Date: 23 Feb 2001 03:07:35 +0000

BEGIN ANOTHER SWILL, THIS ONE WON'T LAST FOREVER

Rebunk: The title might need a little adjustment in order to differentiate it first of all from the slew of post-situationist "critiques" of the SI that appeared in the 70s and early 80s, more often than not prey to gross misreadings and historical misunderstandings (e.g. Barrot, Winks, Home).

Well, how about Transcendence or Supercession of the 1st SI? More to the point, though less challenging perhaps. (Challenging is good innit? or not—depending really on how highly you rate the current crop of phoney situationists...). But in any case, this is a brief 10-odd point declaration we're aiming at here, not a literary career a la Home et al.

Rebunk: ...and secondly, from the tendency to fetishize the 1962 split between the SI's "artistic" and "political" factions—effectively into "first" and "second" Situationist Internationals

The POINT remember is to compose a scientific method for critique, to examine how reality and historical change are ordered. This is exactly what Marx and Engels hoped to be developing in dialectical materialism (and yer empirio-criticism, too, of course) and what has subsequently been LOST.
Okay. So how about Supercession of the 57 varieties of the Situationist International. I see this document with a can of tomato soup backdrop—or has that been done? Hell no—that was Campbell's but this is Heinz.

Of course the reference to "First" also possessed a threatening spin. One does not have to STATE that one intends to reconstitute a 2nd or 3rd Sit International (which as I see it would make little sense from a semantic point of view) but the implied suggestion that the past be replaced with a present and a future...this would bring out the woodlice or at least set them squirming a little in their rotting crevices...no? Oh well, I'll settle for the soup can then.

Article 1 read:

The SI inherited the incomprehension of dialectics that was already rife amongst (so-called) Marxists. Whilst on the surface the objection may seem merely one of perspective, to think of dialectical "opposition" as the motor of historical social change is in fact a fatal error—it results in several weaknesses which include (amongst others!) the failure to resist the transformation of subversion into a posture supporting the status quo.

Rebunk: This is a good point in terms of its acknowledgement of the potential recuperation of oppositional poses.

The only social contract worth having is the one that guarantees to us the world we want to live in and none of these wankers—communists, anarchists and situationists, has anything to offer which doesn't come cheaper when it's stolen.
Nope, nope, nope. I mean a lot more than that—there's no "potential" about it. What is being stated here is a general scientific objection to the law of dialectics as framed in Marxism and the alternative postulate does not apply simply as a warning re politico-poseurs but as a general description of reality. The POINT remember is to compose a scientific method for critique, to examine how reality and historical change are ordered. This is exactly what Marx and Engels hoped to be developing in dialectical materialism (and yer empirio-criticism, too, of course) and what has subsequently been LOST. (Hence the reversals of the late 20thC —which floundered along instead by leaning on slogans and comprehending nothing—least of all itself.)

Rebunk: ...but such a co-optation occurs even to those scientific Marxists who reject dialectics, and those self-styled anarchists who reject Marxism.

Exactement—and more besides. In Varela's terminology, such "dialectics" are in fact enactments, static phenomenological entities, fields, states which emerge and constitute themselves through a self-preserving tension. However co-optation only occurs if you play the game of taking sides in these games. It's a FRAUD to take sides in them—a decision to maintain a certain static posture in conspiracy with the "opposition" which is therefore nothing of the kind but in fact a co-conspirator. How you deal with this fact is a matter for you according to circumstances, but the fact I.S.. Supercession and transcendence in their various ways are, or should be, on the contrary (just like detournement) an escape from such predicaments—a genuine betrayal of the conspiracy. But the conspiracy will try to retrench itself on the basis of the new betrayal, and must be betrayed again and again...The only social contract worth having is the one that guarantees to us the world we want to live in and none of these wankers—communists, anarchists and situationists, has anything to offer which doesn't come cheaper when it's stolen.

I have no such aspiration: I declare my interest from the very start, I declare myself to be a LIAR and a CHEAT (if you like) and thereby become not an icon like Derrida but that "contradiction" in terms—a tangible enigma—a liar with an honest intent, a monster with a beautiful dream. Better that by far than the converse.
Rebunk: Indeed, the SI's grasp of dialectics as theoretical device is actually pretty good, despite the fact that it didn't really reach its full critical potential until after the group's dissolution (in Debord, Sanguinetti and Sebastiani's later writings).

Point us to these better grasps of dialectics Reeb. If they are actually good enough they should form part of the declaration.

Rebunk: You can prove anything with dialectics (whereupon he proceeded to justify the development of Stalinism).

Well, of course. In fact, you cannot prove anything WITHOUT dialectics since so-called meaningful language is composed entirely of words which depend upon a dialectic in order to exist (except, arguably, the word *TAO* but lets skip that one for now). However, the notion that you can prove anything is demolished as soon as you overthrow the false understanding of dialectics itself. Which (to cut a long story short) soon brings us to the subject of Derrida. Derrida however seems to have succumbed—or permitted Deconstruction to succumb—to the (dialectic) illusion of having transcended dialectics: of claiming (albeit in a novel kind of way) to have attained true PURITY, true detachment. I have no such aspiration: I declare my interest from the very start, I declare myself to be a LIAR and a CHEAT (if you like) and thereby become not an icon like Derrida but that "contradiction" in terms—a tangible enigma—a liar with an honest intent, a monster with a beautiful dream. Better that by far than the converse.

Maybe I'm going too fast here.

—kubhlai

Back When Pretentiousness Was God

empire
American Empires by Gabriel Thy
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Originally written to a young American cohort, Matthew Manus, who requested that I reserve this domain name and web server for him. I had visited Matthew and his girlfriend Michelle in Paris a few months before with my wife, This email is dated February 5, 2001. The website was never deployed by Manus, and the project-oriented relationship ended abruptly in May of that year, having never really recovered from the Paris event.

Cheerio my friend. Welcome back to the Gabriel of old—your web site is ready and already has a default page loaded, and this works during testing. Note that the default page must be named "index.html" to match 'XusNET webserver configurations. You have full FTP privileges. You can create new directories, read from, write to, and download anything from your domain's directory. The following information should be entered into your FTP client so that you can access your web site.

          FTP INFO...
          HOST: ftp.siftology.org
          USER ID: siftology.org
          PASSWORD: cleverjones
          Directory: /

Your new web account is configured. Check it out mon frere! Let me know if you have any troubles or questions.

Look forward as always to your cheerful voice once you return to France from the land of Joyce. Me, I'm still properly sick with the flu, no day better than the next, a week now of fever, scorched throat, pain in both ears driven with ice pick precision, the usual sinus stuffiness and upchuck too. But I am as inspired as I've been in years to focus on our global critique, but tire easily and return to bed often.

Rebunk has sparked a flame under me to—once and for all—draw the lines of where I stand on this Debord crescendo. Of course, it looks as if I'm going to have to torch his own Aussie canopy with a direct hit of GT phlegm since, as Kubhlai pointed out recently, he has never ever really put his own two cents on the line, but continues to hide in silence or behind the SI bulk of work he has archived. It's time to quit pussyfooting around. The imperative that I slash away this fog that's been hovering over me for some three years now has reached illuminating proportions.

parisfour
Sue, Michelle, Robert, Matthew in Paris
The Jappe book on Debord is helping pin the Frenchman down for me, and as I suspected, there is so much that I find self-contradicting, just as I find much of the Christian outlook self-contradicting, that I must keep good notes and finally put my own sorry self to the test of my fellow sworgsters. I will start with that very last fragment Zizek (a new name to me, but a piece full of typical dishonest extrapolation) Bunkee sent over the SWILL. I know Kubhlai and I are on the same page, whatever that happens to be, and I think you are there as well. But Rebunk and Crash have shown us nothing but bookmarks from the past, and no clear definition on who in the hell they are as individual credits to their race for humanity's sake.

I cannot help but believe that within the common parallels nee inconsistencies (notwithstanding some quite distinctive divergences) I find in the comparative Situationist-Christianity creeds lies the answer to my own special dilemma as to which spectacular point along the political scale I stand or AM SUPPOSED TO STAND (according to my own nature, and self-interests).

We can make metaphor and we can mix metaphor, poorly or insightfully, forever my friend, but sooner or later, and NOW is MY time, I just have to know what IT IS I KNOW. And there is much I've soaked up in pieces that Debord (the braggart who said he learned nothing from scouring books, but everything by dallying along the streets) touted that I do not believe is true, sweeping generalizations absurb on the face of all things self-evident (relying on dubious constructions such as nearly everybody else's false consciousness while touting the reality of his own desire to make his every point), and even more absurd considering his call to action, knowing the chain of corruptibility people everywhere will die to protect.

You and I have agreed on this point before. But what we must do, or perhaps this is my own chore, is prepare a solid critique of Debord, taking agreement where we can, and marking void those points of fantasy we find impossible to swallow, given that our own cultural bias will never be his, and therefore quite interestingly enough, absent the francophilian and xenophobic texture of many of his assumptions.

While France has its immigrants, America is worshipped by the hordes and hated by another substantial group as well. Paris, well, it's merely a city of glamour, now mostly in the past, for better or worse. However, I suspect that this heady investigation will lead me to suggest that Debordism is very close to Nazaritism (the words and praxis of Jesus) and that any rejection of Debord is a rejection of Jesus on the very terms that I have long been availing the old prophet and dismissing the more recent one. But I must know where I stand with both men.

This exploratory surgery may not interest you at all. But nothing less than this exacting sort of critical analysis will set me free of my own confusion and foster the next step towards defining ourselves as AMIST, SIFTOLOGIST, GEOSOPHIST, in that order.
Debord writes often about the essence of humanity, while ignoring the general corruptibility of that same humanity. This was the point Kubhlai tried to make in his most recent post trying to draw Rebunk into the ring. Yes, a lot of this teasing might sound like retrograde religiosity. Perhaps it is, perhaps it ain't when brought up to date in modern terms we wish to introduce, perhaps with very different social schematics, although we'd be hard pressed to suggest a singular Christian scheme given the complexity of the Catholic-Protestant fillibuster. Your recent remark that originality is not the aim, but rather, relevance is the cornerstone of our endeavor is brilliant!

Remembering our own initial urgency in SWORG terms to embrace the man in the street, Debord fails this universal test, a victim of his own cultural inheritance. His patented exaggerations and smug dishonesty hardly qualify him as the honorable man of action he had aimed to be. He was a man of books and eloquence, staged harrumph and star egotism, and could not feign ignorance, or even virtue long enough to save his own life. Considering he didn't consider writing or contemplation worthy of the name—action—his greatest action was putting a gun to his heart. That greatness rests solely in its finality. Deborg boasted that almost everyone he met wanted to follow him; well, I seriously suggest one cannot comprehend the truth of an intrinsic vision without feeling the floodwaters of petty and trifling rejection.

So after I get the Paris Summit site fully completed and uploaded, I would hope that we might collaborate on a few nails in staking Debord to the cross side by side with the praxis of Jesus, not Pauline Christianity mind you, or at least not until summarizing the similarities and disparities between the two primary men in focus. This exploratory surgery may not interest you at all. But nothing less than this exacting sort of critical analysis will set me free of my own confusion and foster the next step towards defining ourselves as AMIST, SIFTOLOGIST, GEOSOPHIST, in that order. To humor the clowns, I await your response.

By the way, I ordered two copies of [Henry] Miller's The Cosmological Eye a couple of days ago, one to replace my ragged copy, and the other to toss into your care package. You should return in person to the VV and request a refund, pocket the francs, and think of the sad state of business affairs some find acceptable in a world seething with shoddy co-operation. Uh, long live the revolution. Don't you just despise us impatient Americans!!!! Unfortunately I tossed the receipt in a momentary lapse of judgement just days before your recent call, not that you had anything to do with me tossing or not tossing the receipt. I was supposed to be saving ALL those receipts, and have most of them, but alas.

Yet, I was stillllllllll thinking...

He Died Believing This, Says Waller

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Biting The Hand
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Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 09:24:27 -0500

Editor's note: In Richard's defense he would be 73 years old on February 12, but the reason he was invited to join our list was to submit him to a dose of his own medicine in the only way I knew how—but only because I knew he would drop out after a few weeks, and he did. Richard had begun to become a major nuisance with his own long "look at me, aren't I clever" rejoinders, and as luck would have it, his long missives would arrive just as I would be jostling with hosting or other hardware and software problems and I had zilch time at all to deal with him, so of course, he became belligerent in letter and then on voice mail because none of my explanations comforted him. It got nasty, not vulgar, no, just strong in fact and follow-through, after a long bout of him berating me while I'm trying to deflect his rage and sense of propriety as a well-educated and well-traveled elder to whom all prestige was being resented or rerouted, he left without a hint of his own complicity in any ongoing crisis.

It wasn't like I was accusing him of anything, just that I didn't have time right yet to get to his long rambling anecdotes about Buddhism, vegetarianism, or meditation, or some other Richard Waller whimsy, and occasionally when I did follow up a note it wasn't what he expected, and thus, I failed him in that regard as well. When he couldn't get to his web site he screamed bloody murder, as if I weren't spending 21 hour days already trying to keep things running as they were supposed to run when it was ToadNet, our uplink—who was failing in their role as ISP provider—more often than not.

We would fall out to each our utter end of decency further down the road, but that was the price of peace. We both agreed good riddance was a strategy worth pursuing, but here we are again, the young having the last say once again as onlookers wince at the silliness of this long joking gesture, this hobbled parade of the horribles...

Gabriel Thy

Dear Gabriel, the kube's writing this morning is just really too much, too time-consuming for me to dope out and fathom. We have not begun to fully grasp the philosopical systems we already have. For instance, Schopenhauer said, "Subject to the limitations of human knowledge, my philosophy is the real solution of the enigma of the world." He died believing this. Nobody paid much attention until he died. And he was probably right. But each man wants to try.

much-soon
Too Much Too Soon
Wittgenstein said the same thing in his Preface to Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, "...the truth of the thoughts that are here set forth seems to me unassailable and definitive. I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems." If just a fraction of the members of the human race must each have an elaborate system, we won't live long enough to think about the millions. No one solution is ever enough. We must simplify.

I don't want to offend ANYBODY when I ask you to unsubscribe me to the Swill. I am beginning to have health problems and can barely keep up with the course of studies I already attempt—music, the poetry of others, the history of thought, and above all, this business of living.

Richard Waller

Pissing At The Peephole

darcosia
Darcosia
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Originally published on September 16, 1999

Arthur - I have no burning desire to cull the herd of genuine interested parties, far from it, and I certainly appreciated your first response a while back, and now again, when pressed, it seems you have indeed brightened my day just in hearing from you. Smells like loneliness, doesn't it? Not really. It's just that sometimes my own sense of failure and frustration in building an active community where different voices can be counted upon to seed the common causes and indeed foster that notion of belonging to a focussed group greater than oneself, gets the best of me, and I plot yet another "situation" to stir the soup.

I mean, one does get tired of groveling for input. But I've had a rough year myself since this list was founded last November, and certainly do not crave the ax just to exercise some phony sense of authority. The peepholes you mention: Matt, Kubhlai, Michael, and Gabriel, none of us have met in the flesh. But Len Bracken, Steve Taylor, and Lynn Landry all have met me, and have each pleaded cases of personal friendship with the GT, but something is drastically lacking in these friends who hardly have a word to share with this project. Friends indeed, I say to myself. In full-bodied candor, their absence is my strongest resentment of the moment.

Rebunk down in Australia, well, I dunno where he's floated off to, and there is only one other new name (to respond to Matt's query) on the subscription list, but this person has NEVER piped in with a word, not once in the several months since signing on. This person has a UK address, but has remained mum. Again, there is no criminal breech of etiquette in this behavior, but I do interpret a slight rudeness I think for a list this small already.

To me, this present anxiety is not a matter of seeping paranoia over the content or stylings of these conversations, uh, falling into the wrong hands or some utter nonsense like that; as incendiary cant they barely make muster, but there is a pinching personal disappointment fueled by a periodic suspicion that perhaps the SWILL is indeed nothing more than a crass waste of time since there are many other lists out there which seem to attract all sorts of opinionmaking noise, of the feverish sort or the mundane, but here, uh, well you know what I mean.

And I really despise the fact that I am whingeing over this.

GT

Challenging The Purpose, Strata, and Conformity Of Banana Pudding

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Originally published on the SWORG SWILL LISTSERV on December 14, 1998

It was a Ginsberg quote: "The Beat Movement was never meant to be a rebellion. It was meant to bring in a new consciousness. The middle-class, who were rebelling against Mother Nature by destroying her ecologically, made us out to be rebellious." And also, when remarking on how Laura Miller had trashed his "Grammatron" in the NYTBR, Mark Amerika complained that she had set up a "false binary" and "unnecessary either/or oppositions", and then proposed that we simply open our minds to a variety of styles and possibilities within any given framework. So to answer your question, allow me to say that I too am weary of this plethora of binary constructs that attack the imagination in exactly the same way the media controls operate. In the US, the race issue is always put to the people in binary form, but everybody knows (except those on the hot button payroll) the issue is both simultaneously more simple and more complex than it's presented in the media, but the media elite and the political hacks milk the same anachronistic cow day after day, and very little ever changes except we continue to lose perspective with this increasing concentration of the THEM VERSUS THEM dichotomy.

Michael Crash writesI'm with you on this—it has always been a quite useful method of control to set up artificial binary conflicts to keep people angry at each other and to keep them blind to the true problems—Burroughs always stated that in order to truly challenge a system you have to move outside the constructs of language which is grounded in the binary system of control—of course this also leaves out most people who are unable or unwilling to approach a work such as the Burroughs books—so where should we go? I think a very effective means of challenging systems is to attack the discourse upon which they rest—language for me is the key to power—not just spoken or written dictum, but also the language of images that are broadcast and plastered everywhere.

Levi-Strauss pointed out how in primitive myths the mispronounciation of words and the misuse of language were considered to be very dangerous and very powerful methods of disrupting the system and the coded language that they used as their base of understanding, and power. Is this not even more true today—when it seems that we are ever so more dependent on words and images to define our perceptions?

So again I am prompted to ask, “What does a would-be worldchanging revolutionary like you and I desire in terms of a workable liberty for all? I hear plenty about injustice and those conflicting wills to power that we loudly boo at every turn of the screw, but I hear almost nothing about this brave, new world we all supposedly desire in our heart of hearts. Even when I do hear of some shimmering off the wall ploy, like Bob Black’s “Zerowork, All Play” anthem to futurism now, in a solar system where the 2nd law of thermodynamics rules with an atomic fist, I see an all or nothing approach rather fetching in aspiration but far too reaching in terms of practicality or desirability, especially when much of the labor required to oppose entropy is merely camouflaged as play in a falsifying language, much like “political correctness” operates today.”
Is not the mass media almost a form of magic in most peoples lives—turn the TV on and the tribal stories are broadcast from the hearth of your living room and the smoke signals of info are distributed to the family—turn on the computer and miraculously we can fly to any part of the world—just among our small group—when was the last time one of us spent a whole day in which we didn't receive some kind of mediated input (books, magazines, radio, tv, film, internet, etc).

What power is there in producing transgressive materials that seek to wreck havoc on the codes of the dominant culture? I don't know to any degree of clarity, but I wonder if the many people who have pointed out that when we engage in straight binary resistance to the system we are only reinforcing that system, I wonder if they have a point—that is to say, that in resisting the dominant culture straight on we help them to define themselves and to point at easily recognizable, definable, and soon to be specularized deviants who can be set up as the new boogeyman. I know I'm rambling a bit here—but what do you all think?

Gabriel wrote—It's a blood given that corporate giants and political hacks are ruthless whores. It's in their ideological DNA. But why should that stop anyone with enough guts and stamina to be different, to risk it all, to tear down the walls of a slum, and build afresh, a new way of thinking; no matter how we cut the ideological cake trailblazers can't afford to be whiners (see Henry Miller's Cosmological Eye). Of course everyone wants to be the hot new thing, if only to themselves, and if they fail, they usually become grumpy old whiners accusing the system of foul play.

But then Cobain and Steinbeck chose very different paths to avoid the pains of their success. Ghandi could have been a very rich man, he declined. What's wrong with making money, if one spends it well. Bill Gates is a jolly liar as his testimony before the US Department of Justice in his anti-trust litigation is proving, but he has frequently said that he doesn't believe in leaving amassed fortunes to heirs. If he spent enough millions on truly changing the landscape of certain depressed areas, why would not his taxations of those peoples and organizations that COULD afford it, be forgivable.

You see, there are so many complex choices presented to us, but we stumble around and usually end up either goofing along picking up a few addictions which insult our biology and agenda for happiness, or else we opt into nosing the grindstone a slave to production so that we also pick up a few addictions that insult our biology and agenda for happiness.

The key, as a few savvy Greeks agreed, was moderation in all things. But few of us (and I'm one of 'em, unfortunately) can't learn to implement moderation in our lives because we are ruled by addictive personalties, and as Tolstoy (modernized) put it, it does us no good to beat ourselves up over one addiction only to have another two or three rush in to take its place. Whether we're talking substance abuse, laziness, addiction to work, sex, well hell, you know what I mean, it's all the same problem child within us.

Despite my own yearning to burst out of my skin to trumpet the last charge on a world corrupted by its own sense of infallibility whether originating from the right or the left, capitalism or marxism, I am convicted by my own sense of limitation, not always imposed from the outside, but often enough a consequence of my own choices, and those of my genetic bearing. How can I blame someone else for that?
Good news is that when faced with a ruthless giant, nature seems to transform us into thinking we're a giant killer. Not too long ago the Internet founders (a cluster of old hippies and nerds) threatened to bring the world together in a non-commercialized free-spirited community. Then Mammon got a whiff of what was happening, and started pissing in the pond. Well, we can't stymie that but we can work like hell to keep the original spirit alive, and do what we can to advocate the world we want, never flinching, but rather calling for a cease-fire to all this whining.

I don't mean lay down one's intellectual arms and join the enemy, but simply to accept the challenge of David & Goliath, forge partnerships, or lessen one's sights at directly competing, but more often than not merely supplementing the bullies, by carving out a solid niche from which we embark upon that brave, new world, regardless of who is watching, who is following, or who gives a flying carpet ride one way or the other.

Books? Yes, more books are being published than ever before, but are we any closer to changing the world, if indeed that is the stated goal of the persuaders?

Crash writesniche carving is a very good method of slicing into mediated realms (hey Manus, I'm starting to sound like one of those video game players) and setting up zones of operation (much like Gabriel has started here).

Gabriel wrote—Writers have never had more freedom (despite all the Internet porn busts stinking up the coffeehouse) in history. Recall Voltaire, Rousseau, running for their lives, hiding in exile, poverty, and scorn save the intellectual and financial graces of the few. We artists (if indeed we are artists, and not simply poseurs seeking escape from responsibility) in the west now have such an accelerated vision of freedom, we think we are living in especially perilous times, and in the supertechnological superpolitical sense we perhaps are, but we have also never been more free to express ourselves (no artist was born guarateed fame, riches, or readers).

Despite my own yearning to burst out of my skin to trumpet the last charge on a world corrupted by its own sense of infallibility whether originating from the right or the left, capitalism or marxism, I am convicted by my own sense of limitation, not always imposed from the outside, but often enough a consequence of my own choices, and those of my genetic bearing. How can I blame someone else for that?

Crash writesyes, more books than ever are being published—but what kind of books—i have no problem with the consumption of brain candy—as Manus knows when I just told him about Joe Lansdale's thrillers. But there is no need to legally pursue dangerous writers or artists anymore—becausethey are drowned out in the flood of product that dominates the market. And who is controlling what is published? What books are advertised—open up any advertisement for a book store and peruse what is put before consumers—walk through your Barnes and Nobles, your Borders?

In the 1960s there were more than a hundred substantial publishers in NYC alone. By 1980 there were only 70; by 1995 the number had dropped down to 15, and presently, through further merging there is only 5! Major publishers and these subsequential others are also tied in with the producers of other mass mediums. Now I don't mean to sound like I'm crying that the sky is falling down—but this must be disturbing in some way.

True, the market is flooded with books like never before (as well as other forms of info) but what are these texts? Of course once again this is also a benefit to us and others who seek difference. As the mainstream producers continue to narrow their fields of interest and seek to the common denominator it opens up the possibility for very viable and strong niches of operation for smaller more specialized organizations—so perhaps this is a mixed blessing. Are we ourselves cultivating some form of sub-cultural capital—as we are all thinking on these days—what is our true goals in these efforts—do we intend to do something to challenge the hierarchal stratification of society—the mind-numbing mediatized conformity?

Gabriel wrote—Again Crash, when I look around these here parts I don't see this world as one straitjacketed by conformity (although I surely hear and read a lot of noise to the contrary). In the greater populations (putting aside the corporate merger trend which is just the opposite than what is happening in the de-centralized neighborhoods and streets, but I guess we have Debord to explain this cause and effect to us). I nevertheless see cat fights and dog bones between warring factions along every corridor as soldiers of each faction scrawl hard lines of demarcation to help solidify a turf. Bias to difficult, damn near impossible to extricate from the common mind.

*Your Australia may be very different from my America, but when I see a group of folks working and playing in harmony I marvel at how the group has conformed to an ideal so often missing on the street, in the universities, on certain ballclubs, in art snot piss fights, no one simply content to be different hanging on the same street corner or intellectual counterpoint but everyone bucking for superiority status.

Competition ain't dead, and if competition is not dead, how can we also be lost on the mind-numbing mediatized comformity rap? And racial conflicts with their wealth of metaphors are the easiest to exploit. Debord had it right when he said the Spectacle tosses out two opposite claims and watches the skirmish in glee, knowing that the debate will roll on forever while the social structure remains the same. Superiority, that's what straw leaders are after.

That ain't just a white man thing anymore, if it ever was (and I doubt that very seriously, the Euros just won a few wars at a strategic time in history, have gained and lost as a result). I know I'm guilty of thinking no one is my superior, and will fight like mad to prove how wrong I can be. The point is, the stratification of society is just something we're going to have to accept because it is a rather natural phenomenon despite its excesses and inherent unfairness. I agree with Matthew's proclamation of a couple of posts back:

"...abolishing hierarchies is as impossible as abolishing the state. Let's face it—anarchy without hierarchy just ain't never gunna happen, that's my opinion anyway."

As for "sub-cultural capital", methinks I'd like to see some elaboration on the concept. I'm not sure what you're suggesting. And since I've ranted enough today I'd rather not go barking down a cold trail.

Crash writesI don't know—i see a lot more conformity than you do—maybe it's because I view the system (in the US) as encouraging a cultivated form of difference and that its ability to immediately suck up and spit out a clean, sanitized version of anything that may challenge its operations—a simplified example would be punk's howl of rage—short time of challenge—fear from the populace—by 1977 we see punk fashion on fashion runways, London newspapers printing articles on how punks are just part of the family, punk is cleaned, sanitized and marketed—dead before it gets started—it is now just another acceptable means of conforming, albeit leaving the troubled youth a bit of dignity in believing that they may in some way be giving some challenge to the system that they feel has excluded them.

As for sub-cultural capital—it was an off-hand remark actually questioning my own purposes or intents since I believe we must question ourselves—and tossed out to everyone else—wondering if I may not be somehow cultivating a form of sub-cultural capital, a sanitized and safe form of alternative "cultural capital" (cultural capital cultivated artistic and intellectual capabilities that leads to your being valued by elites).

As I said just questioning my own intent—I have a very good friend from eastern Europe who understands resistance to a system in a way that I never could, having grownup in the states where, although they will and do kill people for the wrong reasons, it's not quite as harrowing and prevalent as the former soviet system)—she constantly keeps me on my toes about some of my *resistance* stances and leads me to question my intent (or as I think she may see it my overly romantic, overly idealistic views). So I guess this was a moment of self-doubt on my part. What do we see as the problem that we should be devoting our attentions to—we seem to be attempting to come up with plans of attack without really thinking upon what we want to change or what we could best effect with our efforts.

Gabriel wrote—Elitism based on phony distinctions is a major problem, but hucksterism is its whoring stepsister. They hate each other, plot behind each other's arched back, spit in each other's intellectual food, kick each other's namby ankles, and attempt to steal each other's cultural graces without even bothering to shed its skin until it's absolutely forced upon them. Both exist across every social and economical class. Both breed mistrust and greed. Acknowledging their relationship to each other however they will bond together to thwart any and all those who stand in their way, that is to say, the vocal non-elitists and the few trailblazers committed to absolute (not to be confused with pre-conceived) integrity.

But I still think the whole concern is rather premature since we have mucho mucho work to do in the chainthinking section of the site particularly since, uh, wait a minute, uh since, in fact, no one but Manus is privy to those earlier discussions which initially brought him into the Scenewash Project. Truth is I’m aware of no one but he who has actually signed onto anything but the SWORG-talk list, and believe me I’m far too jaded with past failed collaborations to presume ANYTHING about who is committed to what at present.
And they often win their battles against the non-elitists and integriters because they appeal with flattery and spectacular powers in their search for allies among the spectacularized populations in order to defeat these enemies, these straight shooters, these few honest constituents of a better world once taught them in childhood mythos as sacred and worthy but ushered away as the real world ruled by this beast we have just described becomes clearly the prince of all that worships it, and reality replaces mythos as the battleground upon which we shed our blood.

How do we attack this world of theirs, if we declare ourselves enemies of elitism and hucksterism, you ask? We must practice a more honest implemented form of warfare in putting our own personal spins on the solution, that is, we must know who and what we are, playing the humble idiot if we must, the loud-mouthed brute if we dare, but always, always keeping to the mark when it comes to personal honesty (read Henry Miller, enemies hate it when you've already laid all your own dirty laundry on the table, and they can't hose you with it in an ambush) and candor (without the elitism & hucksterism, we must define these values next) but I am still nagged by something Manus wrote:

As I am being my honest self here, I must declare that I could give a fuck about 1) audience 2) viral politics or 3) allies until we here at SWORG have something to show for ourselves, namely, a unified schtick (as GT initially proposed) that gives us a raison d'etre as an active GROUP. My logic is irrefutable when I say that causticness is a necessary perquisite as egotism is a necessary perquisite to ANY activity in this warlock of cyberspace, and that we should not only solidify our reasons for existing, but assure ourselves that, yes, a bit of caustic bite really is the necessary fuel for lighting the fire of collaboration between ourselves, and initiating any engagements with OTHERS.

Gabriel wrote—my visceral response to this outlook is negative running contrary to my hypothetical Boy Scout nature, but I reluctantly agree with the whole of Matt's statement, so I guess I am still fomenting the idea of caustic abruptness (as Landry will testify I'm no rookie rabblerouser) as it is magnified in relationship to my sensibilities concerning false elitism and hucksterism in the SWORG groupthink arena. But I still think the whole concern is rather premature since we have mucho mucho work to do in the chainthinking section of the site particularly since, uh, wait a minute, uh since, in fact, no one but Manus is privy to those earlier discussions which initially brought him into the Scenewash Project. Truth is I'm aware of no one but he who has actually signed onto anything but the SWORG-talk list, and believe me I'm far too jaded with past failed collaborations to presume ANYTHING about who is committed to what at present.

Crash writesI like your ideas on what we need to do—as far as moving past the abuses of huckesterisma and elitism. And I truly believe in the need to hone and develop a true system of personal honesty—nothing could be higher on my list—because I believe that is the key in my development and that it is also vital in my dealing with others (both my personal honesty and hopefully theirs). As for other efforts that are need here on the website—you are correct in your statement that I haven't contributed to the Scenewash Project—because

A) I'm trying to get my thesis finished so I can get the fuck out of this college
B) I'm trying to set up employment so that i dont starve when I do leave.
C) These are extremely important to me, because I do not have a wife who will support me (this is what you stated Gabriel?) or Matthew's very important network of comrades or Landry's admirable corporate job or Rebunk's art criticism gig.
D) So since I will be no good to no one living on the streets (least of all myself—trust me I've been there, and while fascinating I don't really have a desire to do it again). I must concentrate on this in order to become more valuable.
E) But what do you need—I write constantly—ask me I will write and contribute in any way—I will research what needs to be found.

I hope that this is not a problem, but you must understand the situation that I'm in and that while willing to contribute to "our thing" I must keep a check on the very real concerns of food and shelter.

Gabriel wrote—well, Crash, like the tagline goes, think globally, act locally, the cutting edge shimmers, and so drifts the echo, the pitter patter of dangling lost feet...

Here's an example of what I mean about pinning the "tale" on the donkey, getting at the root of one's individual or collective desires in the seemingly vain attempt at rewriting the rulebook of human life on earth. Like much that passes for wit in the spam-o-world, these few lines exemplify a certain notion about human conceptuality, methinks I agree with the ebb and flow, flim and flam, now and then of this humorous anecdote, a mundane work of pure genius because it works on the bitter impact of male sexuality and displays precisely why man in all his glorious self-service is shamefully self-conflicted, context-impaired, and tragically unfit to judge for himself much less for others the reach, unintended consequences, or formulaic global distinctions required to further methodologies as complex as those required to "install" freedom and liberty for all, as if one were merely ordering Chinese takeout for a family of four. Read on...

Reflections On Life As A Male

  • When I was 14, all I wanted was a girl with large breasts.
  • When I was 16, I dated a girl with large breasts, but there was no passion. So I decided that I needed a passionate girl with a zest for life.
  • In college, I dated a passionate girl, but she was too emotional: everything was an emergency; she was a drama queen; she cried all the time and threatened suicide. So then I decided I needed a girl with some stability.
  • I found a very stable girl, but she was boring. She was totally predictable and never got excited about anything. Life became so dull that I decided I needed a girl with some excitement.
  • I found an exciting girl, but I couldn't keep up with her. She rushed from one thing to another, never settling on anything. She did mad, impetuous things, and flirted with everyone she met. She made me miserable as often as happy. She was great fun initially and very energetic, but directionless. So I decided to find a girl with some ambition.
  • After University, I found a smart, ambitious girl with her feet planted firmly on the ground, and married her. She was so ambitious that she divorced me and took everything I owned.
  • Now all I want is a girl with big tits.
  • So again I am prompted to ask, "What does a would-be worldchanging revolutionary like you or I desire in terms of a workable liberty for all? I hear plenty about injustice and those conflicting wills to power that we loudly boo at every turn of the screw, but I hear almost nothing about this brave, new world we all supposedly desire in our heart of hearts. Even when I do hear of some shimmering off the wall ploy, like Bob Black's "Zerowork, All Play" anthem to futurism now, in a solar system where the 2nd law of thermodynamics rules with an atomic fist, I see an all or nothing approach rather fetching in aspiration but far too reaching in terms of practicality or desirability, especially when much of the labor required to oppose entropy is merely camouflaged as play in a falsifying language, much like political correctness operates today."

    Gabriel wrote—Sipping Samson agonistes, I agree to a tee, hey Crash, you've arrived! We're obviously challenging the obvious, the purpose, strata, conformity of rice pudding in the lower provinces, then we'll move on to the next pile of rubble. Rejoice, pick up your blanket and walk!

    Crash writesI seek the chance to develop a community with others who are seeking change and are willing to go about it. I'm sorry if my situation is not exactly key for mass involvement, but as I stated above I will contribute in any manner that I can. Hopefully this is enough. If not so be it—but thanks for the encouragement Gabriel and keep me posted. December—what a pissy time of year...

    Editor's Note
    Crash was living and going to school in Illinois at the time of this exchange. Somewhere in this swill, I referred to Australia as though Crash was living there. This exchange was our initial communication, and I had wrongly located Crash. It was Rebunk, who was in Australia. Our group was soon to include "kubhlai" from Nottingham, England, and Matt, then going to school in Austin, TX, and Rebunk. A few others did pass through the SWILL, but this crew of five was to remain its core collaboration until the group disbanded rather informally, in May, 2001.