Fractured Subjectivities

Just the other day I had the privilege of listening to a brilliant talk by Kris Cohen (Reed College) who examined questions of togetherness, social alienation, and what it means to “know” someone, among other things. Expanding on his book that I have, admittedly, yet to read, Never Alone, Except for Now: Art, Networks, Populations, Cohen looked at whether we can “know” someone from their social media profile(s), what anonymous search queries can tell us, if anything, about a population, and how we can be with those who we never meet. During the question and answer session, I sought to clarify a point he made and fired from the hip with a question/objection. As I’ve had slightly more time to think on the issue, I feel as if I ought to expand upon it and see how it might apply to other instances.

Towards the beginning of his talk, Cohen brought up the Twitter page of @tinynietzsche (embedded below) as an example of a “person” he somewhat knew. More precisely, Cohen brought up @tinynietzsche’s Twitter page along with a few other social media accounts to make the point that these accounts, these “people,” merely referenced externally existent individuals. Before raising any objection, I wanted to make sure I correctly understood the argument so as not to strawperson Cohen and, so far as I can recall, his re-affirmed thesis ran something along the lines of “When I view this Twitter account, I’m in some relation with this person, but I can only say that I know a ‘part’ of them. They have an external life that I do not and cannot know as I only have access to limited information about them.”

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Genderhacking an Alien Future: On Helen Hester’s ‘Xenofeminism’

Hester, Helen. Xenofeminism. Polity Press, 2018.

In 2015, the Laboria Cuboniks collective proclaimed “If nature is unjust, change nature!” at the end of their much celebrated Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation. After countless discussions in the years that followed, the second canonical xenofeminist text was written by one of Laboria Cuboniks’ founding members, Helen Hester (Associate Professor of Media and Communication at the University of West London). Hester’s new polemic, Xenofeminismpublished by Polity in their Theory Redux series, expands upon the groundbreaking work of the initial manifesto by bringing us a fresh look at xenofeminism from a specific perspective. As Hester notes, “[e]ach of the six members of Laboria Cuboniks […] would likely emphasize different aspects of the manifesto” and thus Xenofeminism is not so much “the book on xenofeminism [..,] but rather book on xenofeminism.” As such, one ought to read Xenofeminism not as a book explaining an already established set of ideas, but, rather, as a growing nodule on the xenofeminist root: Hester’s nodule.

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The Xenophobic Subject

“Disgust recapitulates phylogenesis,” Flusser says.1)Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise with a Report by the Institut Scientifique Recherche Paranaturalist, trans. Valentine Pakis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 11. Not only that, disgust hierarchizes; it indexes our departure from other forms of life and as such situates the human subject on a pedestal. The further removed from us an entity is, the more disgusting it is. Or so the theory goes. The spectrum of disgust and fear is not linear, however, but rather is horseshoe shaped. While mollusks may be the furthest away from us and are thus portrayed as the “[m]ost disgusting of all,” this account seems wrong; we are still intricately connected to them and fear is likely not our first reaction.2)Flusser and Bec, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 11. The monsters we fear most do not seem to be the creatures that are least like ourselves, but rather are the creatures that are most like us. Indeed, they are us. 

When looking at monsters in popular media — the Demogorgon from Stranger Things (2016- ) or the unnamed monsters from A Quiet Place (2018) — our Xenophobia stems not from the sight of an entity radically unlike us, but rather from the sight of an entity that is almost us; an “incomplete” or “degenerate” human.3)Ibid., 12. For humans, “life — the slimy flood that envelops the earth (the ‘biosphere’) — is a stream that leads to us.”4)Ibid. If we take seriously this view, then the implications become apparent. If there are different “evolutionary possibilities” or pathways down which “life” could go and we take a teleological view of one of them — the endodermic pathway — wherein “[w]e are [life’s] goal,” it ought not surprise us that creatures that have not attained the goal of humanity despite wandering our forsaken path disgust us.5)Ibid., 8; 12.

More specifically, if we are the supposed endpoint of the endodermic pathway, the “pinnacle of evolution,” another creature following the same path that is superior to us is abjectly terrifying. Indeed, God has been bested. Seeing how the humans are picked off by the unstoppable “death angels” in A Quiet Place or how Hawkins is infested with Demegorgon(s) in Stranger Things, the fear that perhaps we are not so special becomes foregrounded. Indeed, the true, a-teleological meaning of evolution smacks us in the face like a Lovecraftian monster actualized. Where Lovecraft’s monsters are indescribable, however, the “incomplete” or “degenerate” human is on display and forces us to confront our own cosmic facticity, our absurd existence. The force of the cosmic Other rests in its relentless destruction of all that is human. It decenters and decouples the human subject, knocking us from our pedestal of significance and forcing us to reconsider our Being.

While its existence is a threat, we are made better for it. The Xeno, ultimately, is the mirror humanity gazes into and no matter how hard we try to smash it, we will never succeed. The Xeno is unstoppable…

References   [ + ]

1. Vilém Flusser and Louis Bec, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis: A Treatise with a Report by the Institut Scientifique Recherche Paranaturalist, trans. Valentine Pakis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 11.
2. Flusser and Bec, Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, 11.
3. Ibid., 12.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid., 8; 12.

Fragment on Time Travel

The other day, an entity from the future (I’m not sure if it was even me) reached its tendrils through coagulated spacetime and vomited onto a notebook.

There are a few scenarios:

The future hasn’t happened yet: X – – – – – – – – -> T2; Or, more appropriately, the future isn’t existent.

The future is determined: X –––––––> T2; Or, more appropriately, the future is strictly defined by the present. Given that, actualizations of time travel can only exist if the potentialities for time travel exist in the present.

The future exist independently of the present: X             XT2; Or, more appropriately, the present cannot affect the future. Given that, time travel seems interesting insofar as it’s an anthropological study. This also implies that each moment in time exist as a bubble. In other words, each moment in time is a universe. Given that, there are an infinite number of universes that exist.

Does an omniverse exist?

What’s more interesting, does each universe continue on it’s own temporal trajectory, or is there one temporal trajectory and a static consciousness jump from one universe to another.

The future exists semi-independently of the present: X –––––––> –––––––> –––––––> T2; Or, more appropriately, the present can partially affect the future, but the future itself is independent of the present. The particulars of the future are determined. The same temporal bubble problem still arises, however.

[(Tx) (Tx.x) (Tx.xx) … Omniverse {Tx, Tx.x, Tx.xx,…}]

What is the quantization, though? This view necessarily involves discrete quanta. Can we actually carve up the world as such? If we can carve up time, time is then brought back to a dimensional level. Perhaps we cannot know the quanta.

Further thoughts:

X1 –––––––––––––––––––––>X2 | X1(X3)–––––––––––––––––––––>X2

When X3 comes into existence, the future already exists. The moment an entity from T2 enters anytime in the past, T2 is existentially determined. Given this, if we buy time travel, then time cannot be linear insofar as linearity implies that T2 cannot exist without T1. T2 must already exist in some form and thus time cannot be a line, but is instead circuitous.

To embrace this, we have to shed notions of the past, present, and future as all these terms are loaded and presuppose a linearity. Thus, if we want to question whether time is linear, we cannot use loaded terms.

…receiving signal…

Alexander Zinoviev in the 21st Century

I recently finished Tomislav Sunić’s1)Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies him as an extremist, a label that does not seem to fit well if one reads his critiques of biological determinism and racism. But since I have no dog in this fight, I’ll leave his “extremist-status” to be determined. Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right and while my feelings on it are somewhat mixed (you can read my brief GoodReads review here), I overall think that, despite the misleading name which Alain de Benoist critiques,2)See Alain de Benoist, “The New Right: Forty Years After,” in Tomislav Sunić’s Against Democracy and Equality (London: Arktos, 2011), 18. it serves as a decent cursory introduction to the European New Right. This post, however, is not about Sunić’s book as a whole, but rather about the analysis he provides of Soviet dissident Alexander Zinoviev in the final chapter of the book.

More specifically, writing the book originally in 1988 and analyzing Communism and the Soviet Union before it collapsed, Sunić makes interesting use of Zinoviev’s cultural analysis of Communism that is even more interesting to read in a post-Soviet era. Indeed, based on Sunić’s commentary on Zinoviev, it seems as if the latter was sure that Communism was a sustainable system and would endure any economic hardship the arms race with the U.S. brought to the Soviet Union. It is my contention that if we take Zinoviev’s view of Communism at face value — that is to say, as explicated by Sunić –, then in a post-Soviet world, we are forced to conclude that the Soviet Union was not, in fact, a Communist society as per Zinoviev’s view.

Before I continue, I should make it clear that I have not read Zinoviev’s 2002 book The Russian Tragedy: Death of a Utopia (indeed, I’m not sure that it is available in English) wherein he reflects on the collapse of the Soviet Union. In The Russian Tragedy, Zinoviev could very well answer every point I raise in the following post and I wouldn’t know it, but nevertheless I shall comment on his views pre-collapse as they are likely not only distinct from his later views, but provide intrinsically interesting insights.

In the chapter “Homo Sovieticus: Communism as Egalitarian Entropy,” Sunić takes on the task of explicating Zinoviev’s cultural view of Communism as not merely a “historical zig-zag,” but rather as “an epoch.”3)Tomislav Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (London: Arktos, 2011), 188. For Zinoviev, Communism, true Communism, is characterized by social entropy. For him, large scale stability and prosperity are not characteristics of Communism, instead, “social devolution” wherein individuals can “develop defensive mechanisms of political self-protection and indefinite biological survival” are characteristics of Communism.4)Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, 189. Indeed, for Zinoviev, not only is power in a Communist society not centralized, the society itself is truly egalitarian with everything distributed horizontally. Given such a feature, under conditions of stress — namely economic hardship — there ought not be revolts as everyone is in an equally terrible situation as everyone else. Further more, conditions of economic stress ought not be seen as indices of the system buckling, but rather as instances of the system surviving. As Sunić points out:

In his usual paradoxical way, Zinoviev rejects the notion that Communism is threatened by economic mismanagement, popular dissatisfaction, or an inability to compete with liberalism. Quite the contrary: Communism is at its best when it faces economic difficulties, famines or long queues. It is a system designed for the simple life and economic frugality. Affluence in Communism only creates rising economic expectations and the danger of political upheavals.

Continuing on, Sunić pre-empts reader’s worries by saying that

[f]or contemporary readers, Zinoviev’s theses may often appear far-fetched. In an age of glasnost and the unravelling [sic] of Communist institutions all over Eastern Europe, one is tempter to believe that Communism irreversible. But if one reverse this assumption, glasnost may also be seen as a turning point for Communism, that is, as a sign of the system’s consolidation that now allows all sorts of experiments with liberal gadgetry.5)Ibid., 196.

Given this, it seems hard to claim that Zinoviev did not have a romantic view of Communism wherein words meant their opposite: hardship meant prosperity, mismanagement meant security, etc. If one takes Zinoviev’s theses at face value — namely that contradictions to Communism are not death spells –, it seems difficult to simultaneously maintain that the Soviet Union, a highly unegalitarian society that was brought down by economic mismanagement, popular dissatisfaction, and economic difficulties, was real Communism. Or perhaps Zinoviev is just wrong. Regardless, the collapse of the Soviet Union either disproves Zinoviev’s theses, or proves that the Soviet Union was not an example of real Communism. Both options seem unpalatable, but one must be true.

References   [ + ]

1. Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies him as an extremist, a label that does not seem to fit well if one reads his critiques of biological determinism and racism. But since I have no dog in this fight, I’ll leave his “extremist-status” to be determined.
2. See Alain de Benoist, “The New Right: Forty Years After,” in Tomislav Sunić’s Against Democracy and Equality (London: Arktos, 2011), 18.
3. Tomislav Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right (London: Arktos, 2011), 188.
4. Sunić, Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right, 189.
5. Ibid., 196.