you do it yourself

18Mar10

If you can’t be arsed reading the whole post, this poem more or less says everything in it anyway:

All mankind,

Whether ghost or projection,

Is racing in terror

Back towards the from whence

It came. Screaming

As it tries to prise open

the original closure and, returning,

To climb back into

The womb:

A womb made of concrete,

History or Prayer.

This is a poem I wrote some years ago when I was about 18 and just starting out on my undergraduate philosophy degree, living away from home for the first time in a place I didn’t much like (waking everyday as I did to the smell of burning tyres, in a miserably deprived area of North London). After just having baffled about the internet for a while after completing my clinical practice workbook I came upon Peter Sloterdijk’s wikipedia. His is a name I have heard several times but never really enough to prompt me into discovering more about his work. This may change now as the entry includes this little bit of information:

Spheres is about “spaces of coexistence”, spaces commonly overlooked or taken for granted that conceal information crucial to developing an understanding of the human. The exploration of these spheres begins with the basic difference between mammals and other animals: the biological and utopian comfort of the mother’s womb, which humans try to recreate through science, ideology, and religion. From these microspheres (ontological relations such as fetus-placenta) to macrospheres (macro-uteri such as nations or states), Sloterdijk analyzes spheres where humans try but fail to dwell and traces a connection between vital crisis (e.g., emptiness and narcissistic detachment) and crises created when a sphere shatters.

This resonates deeply with a long held belief that I probably first expressed in the poem above, back in my misanthropic youth. I wonder if this is how all philosophy develops, all thought even: there are some primordial questions and intuitions formulated fairly early in one’s development which simply circle and circle, reformulating and reenergising themselves constantly; now appearing through this theoretical lens or concern, now through that one. Perhaps it is this, that there is one question that one (philosopher or simple attempter such as myself) is always haunted by, always iterating in mutated ways, which explains Graham Harman’s odd idea that philosophers only ever have One Great Idea.

I had also previously encountered the idea in a way that resonated with me in a brief passage from Virilio’s Desert Screen: war at the speed of light where he stated that the cry that can be heard in Europe is “Everyone to the Shelter!” Virilio goes on:

Meanwhile, following the orders of the international business leaders, business people now avoid travel, fostering thereby the rise of audio and video-conferencing. With this anticipated retreat, we are thus witnessing the preconditions of a new type of cocooning

Of course, he goes on to make the connection of these technologies (which now invade almost every relatively affluent Northern household) with their origins as military technologies. Dual-use, once again, militarising the home and so, with it, our psyches. These cocoons would be excessive and perverse micro-spheres, I would imagine. This gloomy side of the dialectic of technology, which Virilio over indulges in, end up with the vision of the world presented in Michael Houellebecq’s novel The Possibility of an Island where post-human (cloned) beings never leave their compounds, never touch and never explore the land: they never emerge from their cocoons, cocoons which are doubled within their own narcissistic infinite hermeneutic of the original human being on which they are based.

This is a horror story that is excessive but has its moments of truth. As yet we have these technologies, these artificial wombs that allow us our safety, but we still venture out into the world and even use these wombs to launch into real life relationships and activities of all kinds, sexual to activist and all areas in between.

What was the point of this entry? Both to simply express my excitement in a rather narcissistic way (but then who can deny blogs are narcissistic anyway?) at having discovered a new body of work to explore, the despair of this adding to an already insurmountable reading list having not yet kicked in. But also, because it echoes with other ideas. In particular it echoes with Jacques Camatte’s theory of domestication, an essentially Marxian theory that has been adopted by many insurrectionist anarchist.

Camatte:

The explanation for this is to be found in the domestication of humanity, which comes about when capital constitutes itself as a human community. The process starts out with the fragmentation and destruction of human beings, who are then restructured in the image of capital; people are turned into capitalist beings, and the final outcome is that capital is anthropomorphised. The domestication of humanity is closely bound up with another phenomenon which has intensified even further the passivity of human beings: capital has in effect “escaped”.

Other words might be used here; the effects of real subsumption in post-fordist capitalism produces the postmodern schizophrenia of de/reterritorialised subjectivities who find even their generic human capacities to be parasitically wired into the circuitry of exploitation. Bit of a mouth full that though. Bit unnecessary.

In Sloterdijk words:

Humans are pets that have domesticated themselves in the incubators of early cultures.

And this gets much closer to the truth of domestication which we might see as a process that, like power and capitalism, takes different forms throughout history. I don’t want to read anymore into Sloterdijk’s words before I have even the faintest of understanding of them. However, what I do like about this quote is that it saps away the notion in Camatte, and other more recent theorists, that capital actually does have agency of its own and that it can somehow, as if acting as a supersubject, do dreadful things to us. Even more vitally, it seems to rob contemporary capitalism of something of its strange mixture of terminal finality and apocalypticism. Essentially, this is nothing new just a new spin on something we have long done to ourselves.

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