Thursday, 22 February 2018

Mystery Followed by Liberation: the Flying Kite in Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins was a novel before being turned into a film. I mention this because it is now accepted by literary historiography, at least according to the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in his collection of short essays The Fire and the Tale, that the novel derives from mystery in the sense that there was a 'genetic link' between the pagan mysteries and the ancient novel, such as Apuleius' Metamorphosis

He states,
"This nexus is manifested by the fact that, exactly like in mysteries, we see in novels an individual life that is connected with a divine or in any case superhuman element, whereby the events, episodes, and vicissitudes of a human existence acquire a meaning that overcomes them and constitutes them as mystery. Just like the initiated [e.g. at the rites of Eleusis that evoked the abduction by Hades of the maiden (Κόρη) Persophone who would only reappear in the Spring] penetrated mystery and found in it the hope of having his life saved, so the reader, following the series of situations and events that the novel weaves pitifully or ferociously around its character, somehow participates in his destiny and, at any rate, introduces his own existence to the sphere of mystery."
This to say that in Mary Poppins - at least in the film version since I have shamefully not read the novel(s) -  the character whose destiny is at stake is none other than Mr Banks (see Mr Banks Saying Thank You), and the entire story can be interpreted as his own salvation-redemption from, to use Heidegger's formulation, "the trivial surface of his conventional nature" (as showcased by the double-meaning of the title of a recent film on P.L. Travers' creative debacles with Disney, Saving Mr Banks).

In light of this, the kite in the film can be read as symbolising Mr Banks' soul. The film starts with the kite being lost - which is the state Mr Banks is in without realising it - by his children and their asking him to build a better one which he refuses until the very end, after he has gone through the ordeals of his parental, disciplinarian authority being subtly undermined by Poppins, the catastrophic 'run on the bank' that resulted from her 'tricking' him to take Jane and Michael to his workplace and his later humiliating dismissal by the bank's management.

The fact that, in the film at least, the story ends with Mr Banks mending and flying the kite with his children - as immortalised by the wonderful Sherman Brothers' song Let's Go Fly A Kite - showcases that Mr Banks' heart has been both healed and liberated (see Importance of the Heart) and he has once again become a free spirit in touch with his inner child and, indeed, his own children.

The flying kite at the end therefore marks the end of the mystery initiation, as covertly orchestrated by the nanny - and, more to the point, witch - Mary Poppins who came into Mr Banks' employ, with the effect that the alchemical transformation from base-metal capitalist conventionality (it is no accident Mr Banks is a finance employee) to the gold reality of the liberated mind which is rich-in-spirit has been completed.

(Note how Mr Banks' becomes 'saved' when he understands the true meaning of the tuppence, which is that money is not real, only a proxy for the spiritual wealth of mon-eye, i.e. third eye enlightenment.)

In other words, the story of Mary Poppins is a perfect example of the survival of the mystery traditions in modern fiction, where both we the readers and the character himself are initiated and (hopefully) brought to a higher state of awareness through the succession of symbolic events as portrayed by the 'danced evocation' (Agamben's preferred definition of the Greek term μυστήριον which is usually translated as 'secret rite or doctrine') of the novel and, indeed, film. 

Addendum - It is interesting to note that after Mr Banks has been laid off by his employers and has not returned home or been seen all night, his domestic housemaids and wife - as well as a police bobby - fear the worst, i.e. that he has had a breakdown, gone completely doolally or even committed suicide. This detail in the plot shows how authentic liberation and enlightenment are often mistaken for symptoms of 'madness' (or 'mental illness') for the simple reason that a mind liberated from societal conventionality and economic government - which is to say mind control (gubernare + mens, mentis) - can only be read as abnormal and even threatening by those who are still spiritually enslaved by the control system. At the end of another mystery-initiation film that was also based on a novel, The Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy, finally 'awakes' to reality after her initiation and coming to enlightenment in the magical land of Oz but her tale is merely laughed at by her close friends and family who dismiss it as a mere 'dream'.

[To be sure, the possibility of the false enlightenment of euphoric mania followed by deep melancholia (today referred to with utmost ugliness and a lack poetry as 'bipolar disorder') is represented by the story arc of the tea party with Uncle Albert who goes from floating towards the ceiling with glee and merriment to being deflated by a story involving a cat dying - and yet death is part and parcel of the reality of life. That is to say, Uncle Albert's merriment followed by depression is symptomatic not of the true happiness of the enlightened individual at one with his true self - as embodied by George Banks at the end of the film - but the nervous flight into frivolous laughter and, indeed, reality-bending pathology of one still journeying through and climbing up the lower rungs of consciousness.]

Addendum 2 - Early-day, suffragette feminism is portrayed with humour (or, as some would rapidly suggest, white male mockery in the form of the film's funders and makers) in the character of George Banks' wife, played by Glynis Johns, who wants to liberate womankind but systematically defers to and fears her husband's authority.

As with the sequence that takes place in the bank in which the song Fidelity Fiduciary Bank beautifully describes the power and reach of (pre-WWI) colonialist capital in a way that recalls how finance works today (note the lyric "You'll achieve that sense of stature [...] that established credit now commands" and see Credit: in Money We Trust) - and in that sense helping us draw a parallel that still pertains between the financial capitalism (as distinguished from mercantile or industrial capitalism - see Jobs and Money) of the early twentieth century and that of the early twenty first century - we can see that politically sensitive topics pertaining to social justice (in the shape of equality between the sexes) and the continued elephant-in-the-room of Capital endure, over half a century after the film's release in 1964.

My ex step-father, himself from a modest, working class background, always resented how the movie Mary Poppins portrayed the British labouring classes in the form of happy-go-lucky chimney sweeps and especially in the character of the drifter, vagrant, self-employed, jack-of-all-trades bohemian Bert (Al-bert's nephew), played by Dick Van Dyke - together with his (in)famous Hollywood attempt at a cockney accent. 

I believe he felt the film not only watered down the plight of the exploited classes by making them seem joyful and docile ("as lucky as can be" as per the lyrics of the song Chim Chim Che-ree and it is worth noting that all the chimney sweeps meekly salute and shake the hand of the 'esteemed', wealthy, upper class Mr Banks) but also perpetuates dominant (at the time and, arguably, still now) class ideology and class representations, with the only corrective to capitalist exploitation being good-old 'Christian charity', as preached by Julie Andrews in the tear-jerking song Feed the Birds

Regarding the good fortune of the lower classes as seen through the eyes of Bert, here are telling lyrics taken from the Oscar-winning song Chim Chim Che-ree:

"Now as the ladder of life
'As been strung
You may think a sweep's
On the bottommost rung

Though I spend me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this 'ole wide world
There's no 'appier bloke."

Clearly the spectre of Marx (to quote the title of a book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida) continues to refuse to (conveniently) go away for the purposes of the total and totalitarian victory of capital - and the realm of what the aforementioned Agamben calls οἰκονομία - and its domination over the entire spectrum of earthly, worldly existence (see The Cult of Capitalism and Economy v Morality). This cynical reading of the film isn't helped by the fact Mr Banks is re-employed by the bank on the very first day of his liberation! In other words, the principle of business as usual (see Business is Business) as well as the dynamics of class structure still prevail, regardless of personal spiritual awakening, mystery initiation or level of consciousness: capital - in pure Walter Disney fashion - is still king!

Addendum 3 - Returning to the 'mystery' element of Mary Poppins, the dog Andrew of course plays a pivotal, guiding role in the story's - and indeed mystery's - unfolding which comes as little surprise given the fact that the dog - who in occult terms symbolises 'the elemental forces of nature' - has that very function in the tradition of Tarot as witnessed by that animal's depiction in the 'Fool' card which, in that 'Book of Life' (Tarot as liber vitae, i.e. 'book of life' but also as liber vita, 'free life'), signifies the stepping off the cliff, the leap of faith (or as Heidegger would say 'the leap into thinking') and the beginning of the long, hard but ultimately salutary journey up the Mountain of Enlightenment.

Monday, 19 February 2018

The "Life Doesn't Make Sense" Paradox and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering

On Google, the following quote is attributed to David Lynch:
"I don't think that people accept that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."
In typical human, i.e. inconsistent, fashion, David Lynch is also quoted online as having stated the opposite
"I don't know why people expect art to make sense. They accept the fact that life doesn't make sense."
So we are left to try and make sense of the idea that people accept and do not accept that 'life doesn't make sense'. 

Regardless of the irony or, as Lynch would have it, absurdity of the above
["I don't like the word ironic. I like the word absurdity, and I don't really understand the word 'irony' too much. The irony comes when you try to verbalise the absurd."]
the glaringly obvious paradox I wish to raise (in Greek παρά-δοξος precisely suggests in its morphology what is contrary, παρά, to expectation or opinion, δόξα, and therefore is a key ingredient of philosophical γνῶσις which seeks to distinguish itself from received or conventional wisdom) is that the sentence
"life doesn't make sense"
, in its semiotic-semantic marriage (i.e. in the combined effect of the words as written - the semiotic aspect - and what they intend in their meaning - the semantic aspect) as well as its subject- ("life") predicate ("doesn't make sense") couplet, is precisely giving meaning and order to that which it claims to be without meaning and order: the word "life".

This, if nothing else, shows the true versatility and flexibility of language which allows for a great degree of internal contradiction in that, as we can see, it can claim something ("life doesn't make sense") and at the same time state, i.e. en-act in speech, the opposite ("life doesn't make sense" as a statement is readily understood and makes sense of "life", both the word and what we intend by the word). 

[Indeed, with something probably similar in mind, Heidegger went so far as to write, in English translation (see the thought-poem The Thinker as Poet collected in Poetry, Language, Thought),
"What is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said." (my italics)]
With this example, we can see the veracity of one of the many salient observations on language offered by the Italian thinker Giorgio Agamben, namely that it is not easy for language to refer to something (e.g. "life") and simultaneously refer to the fact of its own referring (i.e. the word life), i.e. its own power of signification, other than through a paraphrase (e.g. "life, both the thing and the word, doesn't make sense", the predicate "doesn't make sense" also constituting a signified intention that does not explicitly refer to itself as signifier) or quotation marks, either written down or gestured with the hands. 

But more existentially relevant perhaps is the insight that I've mentioned elsewhere (see The Warfare of Standpoints - Truth as Necessary Error - Differently Formed Views as well as the last paragraphs of the addendum to Capitalism v Conspiracy) that as human beings we cannot help but order the world in some way, whether through thought, speech, habit, activity or creativity even when 'mentally ill' - psychosis is also a world ordering even though a 'de-ranged', unhelpful one - or labouring under the ubiquitous belief that our understanding is purely based in and co-incides or at least corresponds - more or less completely - with factual reality (as conveyed and mediated by language, technology, people and our very own bodily consciousness - see Definitions of Consciousness). 

Indeed, this very blog post is an ordering of its own, however rooted in a desire for 'objective' understanding it purports to be, no doubt serving my own intellectual and instinctive needs as one breathing, sentient, embodied (human) being among billions. 

Addendum - The Greek word for order was κόσμος from the verb κοσμέω, to order or arrange but also, according to the Greek-English Lexicon Liddell & Scott, to dispose, order, rule and, more metaphorically, to embellish and adorn (which last etymology finds its materialist, commercial expression in the 'cosmetics' industry). 

It seems that right in the Greek word for order, there is a semantic overflow from self-ordering, in all the ways we described in the main text of the blog post above, to political ordering understood as the organisation of power in a polity (see Plato's Republic as Psychological Treatise).

[Of course, in Was ist Politik?, the celebrated and reviled political theorist Hannah Arendt showed that, for the Greeks, politics was about speaking and moving among one's equals in the public arena and the power relations over women and slaves in the domestic sphere of the οἶκος and that pertained between city states, being all based on domination and necessity, were pre or indeed infra-political, i.e. both a condition of and a threat to the freedom of the Greek male citizen in his public existence.] 

The much-touted and much-maligned conspiracy of a global 'new world order' is hardly as far fetched or as radical as it sounds from this point of view; all new technology, information, worldview, social movement, war, media scandal, movie, scientific discovery, YouTube video, legislation and indeed blog post is, by its very being introduced into the world, contributing to the world ordering, i.e. cosmifying, process of the planet which has now become globified and globalised to the nth degree through modern IT communications and the impact of humans on their environment (as regards the ordering effect of the internet itself see The Internet as Apocalyptic Motor and God as Leviathan - The State as False God).

[In this sense, Heidegger's formulation regarding modern technology according to which it is a mode of revealing Being, i.e. an ordering process, that results in the total "orderability of the orderable", including, fatefully, 'human resources', is a rich one because it shows technology to be an ordering that does not just result in a given 'order' that more or less affects the planet and the beings who inhabit it but ultimately results in a "humanity under control" scenario where mankind becomes as exploited and ordered about as Mother Nature herself - a dystopian scenario which has been portrayed, inter alia, in many science fiction movies and that I highlighted in Computed by Computers. The death camp appears in this light as the extreme form of the technological domination of nature and animals, e.g. in factory farming, coming to bear on homo sapiens himself.]

In defiance of the terrible finality of the 'new world order' syntagma, whether in its conspiratorial, capitalist (see The Cult of Capitalism) or technological understanding,  we should perhaps heed the words of French novelist Marcel Proust, uttered I believe in the penultimate instalment of his long novel, In Search of Lost Time, which state
"the creation of the world did not occur at the beginning of time. It occurs every day."
Addendum 2 - I should add that cosmos does have a connotation, in modern parlance, of the stars and planets and the universe of outer space, all of which, through astrology, time-keeping and, indeed, astro-theology (see Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (1): Christianity), have served to provide a profoundly effective and long-lasting order, i.e. κόσμος, for mankind. The genius of the Philadelphia-based researcher Mark Passio is, among other things, to have brought to common awareness the rich cosmifying power of ancient symbolism, which he dates back to ancient antiquity, and that has survived in traditions like Kabbalah, Tarot and Freemasonry in both their dark (sorcery) and light (magic) aspects and their offshoots in modern hierarchies - financial, corporate and governmental - and everyday life. 

Whether it be the trials of 'cosmic abandonment' or the wonders of 'cosmic consciousness' (see Cosmos as my God and Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (3): The Chakras and the Planets), I think that, with some insight and given all the above, we need not worry too much about the supposed meaninglessness and purposeless of human existence. For all human beings, in so far as they are, are cosmifying, i.e. ordering and therefore meaning-giving, beings partaking of that which makes meaning possible at all (i.e. truth - see Lathoron, A Philosophical Dialogue), both within themselves as conscious organisms and without themselves as actors in the world, even if only unconsciously and ineffectually.  

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Cult of Capitalism

As the American thinker and rebel Terrence McKenna was fond of saying,
"culture is not your friend. It is your cult."
But what is the cult of culture? In other words, what does our culture cultivate?

Answer: money (not mon-eye: see Money and Mon-eye) and, specifically, money designed to bring in more money: capital (see Truthfulness and Money). 

The Jewish-German thinker Walter Benjamin wrote some observations, late in his philosophical journey, pertaining to capitalism being more than a mere secular outgrowth of protestantism - which was the angle offered by the sociologist Max Weber (in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) - but as constituting a religion in its own right

While today we may be tempted to look down on the supposedly irrational reverence and rituals devoted to gods and their panthea in classical and pre-classical cultures, human beings of future millennia may be bemused - not to say horrified - by our submission and exposure to monetary capital in all its forms - including advertising and marketing, the film and TV industries, video games and pornography, YouTube and social media, credit cards and mortgages, jobs and careers, cars and smartphones, newspapers and magazines, rents and bills, medicine and sports, travel and hospitality, food and water, the military and information-industrial complexes, books and artefacts, and so on and so forth - ad nauseam

[Indeed some movie and pop stars become icons with millions of fans, some brands like Apple and Amazon have faithful consumer bases not to mention the widespread materialist fetish for certain luxury goods like expensive smartphones and video games consoles.] 

Of course religion is defined by some as a system of cruelty and there is no doubt that (corporate) capitalism is cruel to those who refuse to or cannot conform to its orthodoxy and doxology - such as the requirement to 'earn one's living' (see The Shining: All Work and No Play and Limitations of the Work Ethic as Moral Paradigm) - on top of its pervasive and entrenched exploitative and ruthless practices, be it in (inter)national finance and commerce or in the manufacturing and service industries with their often all-too-dire workplace conditions (see Culture of Fear in the Workplace). 

In keeping with the capitalism-as-cult paradigm, mainstream politicians and economists can be seen as 'capital's priests' (to use Karl Marx's expression) and as Italian thinker Giorgio Agamben so aptly implies in his book The Kingdom and the Glory: for a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government, current economic and political discourses are really the modern-day equivalent - not to say offspring - of the theological, religious discourses of yesteryear that grappled with God's economy and governance of the world through Christ and, by extension, the Church (see Economy and Morality). 

Of course the cult of capitalism has and has had its high priests and priestesses 

- witness Ayn Rand who wrote the US capitalist's bible Atlas Shrugged and, in the political sphere, Margaret Thatcher who claimed 'no alternative' to neoliberal capitalism and its rule of austerity for the masses and welfare for banks and corporations - and the masses - myself included - more or less consciously internalise and comply with the cult daily by consuming, jobholding or merely partaking in any shape or form of planetary determined technology and contemporary society (which would include my writing this blog post and your reading it).

[As an aside, I suggested in the addendum to The Shining: All Work and No Play that money is a technologically enforced and sociologically required currency to enjoy the benefits of technological society - technological conditions largely being the only ones realistically left for existence - thereby giving credence to the view that money is, for all intents and purposes, a social technology which governs the use, ownership of as well as access to all other forms of technology together with the energy sources that underpin and power them - and that includes technologically produced-or-channelled necessities like food and water.]

If I were to provide a human face and embodiment for the elusive, mendacious, cruel, clinical, superficial, ritualistic, image and presentation-obsessed as well as potentially murderous entity that is capital, my vote would go not to Jordan Belfort (i.e. The Wolf of Wall Street), David Rockefeller (a particular favourite target among 'conspiracy theorists'), obvious candidates like Steve Jobs or Donald Trump but to the brilliant invention of American fiction that is Patrick Bateman (who, in the film version of the novel American Psycho, seems to be a dark but humorous twist on the budding businessman character Joel Goodson, played by Tom Cruise, in the early eighties movie Risky Business - see also my post Business is Business). 

Patrick Bateman

Joel Goodson

To quote Bateman's opening monologue from the movie American Psycho
"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me. Only an entity, something illusory."
And yet the illusory, abstract entity of capital is what, by and large, determines the actual course and physical (as well as, more often than not, psychical) manifestation of our very lives!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Externality as Therapeutic Model

"At the extreme limit of pain, nothing remains but the conditions of time and space." - Hölderlin
Indeed. Therefore, in view of a desire for self-therapy as well as self-strengthening, it may perhaps be a good idea to become friends with those external conditions of time and space - which of course aren't entirely external since our bodies occupy space as embodied (or incarnated) time, 'embodied time', that is, by virtue of their cyclical needs and ageing propensity (combining the circular and linear movements of time-keeping, which can lead one to take the view that time is essentially a spiral that spirals outward, just as the circle is pulled out of itself by pressure exerted by the forward motion of linear progression). 

By 'becoming friends with time and space' I mean to say that I have found it helpful, when prey to difficult emotions such as anxiety, hurt, melancholy but also resentment and anger, to willingly envision myself as placed in the external conditions of time and space, which is to say within the objective, physical laws of nature, that I may place my thoughtful attention and trust on their unwavering and stable reliability as opposed to my own fraught, and therefore unreliable, inner life.

This mental envisioning of the external, objective conditions in which one operates serves several purposes. One is to facilitate necessary action; that is to say, in keeping with the focus on external conditions, one comes to realise the primacy of action as the sole enabler for manifesting (positive or negative) change in the physical world but also for warding off or, failing that, resisting negative events. This is a useful insight when action is required of us precisely when we least feel able to act, on account of fear and suffering (fear itself being a form of suffering - see Fear as Suffering - Rational and Irrational Fear - Courage).

The other is to provide one with a transcendent substitute for a redeeming god (although having a personal, self-redeeming god can also be helpful - see Tentative Musing on Heidegger's Last God) by placing one's faith in the immutable conditions of time and space - and physical laws generally - that were here before we were born and will likely outlive us too, conditions, might I add, far more reliable than the caprice that generally accompanies human comportment as well as the general (psychosomatic) frailty of both ψυχή (soul) and σῶμα (body).

[It was this transcendent-substitute idea that led me to write in Eternal Recurrence that "Being and time are my religion".]  

Lastly, and this is perhaps one of the most arduous uses of this external model for self-therapy, is to use the mindset of objective externality as a counterweight to the seemingly in-finite time during which one's suffering and distress takes place on an internal level, keeping in one's rational mind the thought that pain and discomfort do not last forever. Of course one may be tempted to end the suffering early by voluntarily bringing about one's own death through suicide, but I have found it generally conducive to greater happiness and better coping mechanisms to be resolutely on the side of life, banishing the (sometimes tempting and comforting) option of self-termination or the mere thought thereof (known, in the more extreme of cases, as suicidal ideation). 

[As a side note, the esoteric philosopher Manly P. Hall offered the interesting formulation as regards suicide that the (successful) suicide makes his body depart from his soul whereas in so-called 'natural' death the soul departs from one's body.]

For more on how to deal with difficult emotions, see my earlier post Emotions & Thoughts.

Addendum 1 - An external mindset or, at the least, getting into the habit of thinking with one's head rather than one's feelings or emotions (albeit whilst still listening to one's heart, if one has managed to unlock it - see Importance of the Heart and Emotional Data as Teacher) is perhaps also to be recommended in ordinary circumstances as well, i.e. when not feeling emotionally beset, for the purpose of bettering one's judgement and decision-making in daily, earthly habitation - which is also always habituation (see How to Become Master of the World). 

Addendum 2 - There is a contradiction of sorts in stating the reliability of physical, objective data - such as time and space - as opposed to the frailty of the ψυχή (soul) and σῶμα (body), when the external model of self-therapy requires a well-functioning mind (another meaning of ψυχή) which is itself part, one could argue, of the σῶμα or body. I have no convincing defence against this charge, save to say that no theoretical model, in whatever domain, is completely bereft of shortcoming or oversight; indeed that shortcoming or oversight might even be a condition for its coming to the word at all.

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Jew as Werewolf: A Fresh Look at An American Werewolf in London

The 1981 movie An American Werewolf in London interconnects in interesting ways with Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben's seminal book that goes, in the English-speaking world, under the name Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life

In a chapter entitled 'The Ban and the Wolf', Agamben traces the Germanic, Anglo-Saxon (but also Latin in the form of the homo sacer) origins of the wolf-man or werewolf to the figure of the bandit who, being banned by the community, quidlibet possit eum offendere, 'may be harmed by anyone'. 

[Indeed Agamben's argument places the ban, and the abandonment it entails, at the archeo-logical - in the sense of foundational, ἀρχή in Greek meaning beginning - heart of political sovereign power, which is essentially a form of power of life and death, vitae necisque potestas, not unlike the one that was held by the Roman patriarch over his household's children or the totalitarian tyrant over his nation's population.]

The banned bandit that anyone may kill with impunity was said to have a 'wolf's head' - as per the laws of Edward the Confessor in 1030-1035 which use the term wulfesheud - thereby assimilating him to the hybrid figure of the werewolf who, in combining beast and man, φύσις (nature) and νόμος (custom), city and forest (both featured in the movie)
"dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither."

If one considers and takes seriously the allusion in the film to the main character being Jewish and his (nighmared) execution by Nazi monsters - note the menorahs in the background of that scene - then this werewolf/bandit angle gains in political moment, if one perceives the film as offering a covert commentary on the Jewish condition, the Jews traditionally having been only liminally included in - and therefore partly excluded from - the societies they were circumstantially forced to assimilate to.

[It is regrettable that the usually genial Rob Ager failed to give proper focus to this aspect of the movie in his analysis of it, instead of a brief and somewhat feeble allusion to it.]

The Jewish-werewolf connection of the film is particularly serendipitous as regards Agamben's book because Jews did - historically and juridically - come to form an excluded, nationally (our word 'nation' coming from the Latin for birth, natio, and to be born, nascere) abandoned group that were able to be killed with impunity by the Nazi regime, just as the werewolf historically was no more than a shunned bandit who could be killed by anyone without that killing amounting to homicide or criminal murder - the Nuremberg Trials testifying to that fact on the basis that they had to invent the category of 'crime against humanity' to successfully prosecute the Nazi architects and enforcers of the Final Solution.

Viewers of the film know that David (note the Jewish name), the American Werewolf in London himself, is pursued and killed at the end of the feature by an urban mob and indeed there are also hints very early on in the film, as David and his friend Jack visit a country pub, that their 'sort' is not welcomed by English rural villagers either - whether as Americans, foreigners or, indeed, Jews.

Addendum - Of course, Agamben's book makes the wider point that, at bottom, we are all werewolves (note Thomas Hobbes' famous observation according to which homo homini lupus est, man is a wolf for man), not just Jews, in so far as we are all operating under a foundational ban that grounds the modern Nation State and its taking control of our bare, naked lives as part of an argued biopolitical (or thanatopolitical) paradigm of sovereign power.  

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Computed by Computers

Computers compute, i.e. calculate, as suggested by the Latin word computare, itself formed of com, together, and puto, to reckon. 

What should be clear to alert minds alive today is that not only do computers compute whatever data we put into them - such as text, numbers, photos, graphics, music, movies and so forth - but that as computer users, particularly in so far as we use the internet - but also ATM cash machines, debit or credit cards, supermarket loyalty cards, motorway toll booths, parking metres or simply smart phones - we too are computed, i.e mathematically quantified, by corporate and governmental entities that have the technical methodologies to do so. 

As such, just as the philosopher Martin Heidegger hinted at in his essay The Question Concerning Technology, our perceived liberation from old-world labour by machine technology and, more recently, from information control by the digital internet of things has equally transpired in both cases to be at the same time a form of modern-world enslavement that has taken the shape of a reduction of people into exploited and surveilled resource material - or 'human resources' to be a little more polite (and, as I observed in God as Leviathan - The State as False God concerning the internet, the words 'net' as well as 'web' have connotations of 'trap' of a self-admitted 'world wide' scope). 

Thus, just as the so-called scientific revolution that started in the sixteenth century Renaissance period took it upon itself to project a mathematical, which is to say calculating and quantifying (and indeed literalising too, in the sense that mathematical, geometrical symbols are taken literally as a self-contained rather than merely referential reality - see the essay Philosophy and Linguistics in Agamben's Potentialities), model on physical nature, so in the twenty-first century 'screen-age' we too, as human beings and therefore as a form of nature, are mathematically reckoned with, i.e. com-puted, not to say trimmed and pruned - which are other denotations of the Latin word puto.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Shining: All Work and No Play

As I surmised in my Note on the Shining and has since been confirmed by my watching related videos by the talented film analyst Rob Ager (, the Overlook Hotel in that film represents the United States of America in many of its less happy aspects. 

Anyway, this post to add that there was no way a genius like Kubrick would film a veiled critique of the USA without at least hinting at the most damaging and toxic puritanical work ethic, which is at the heart of the capitalist project.

[Indeed it seems to me that the whole ethos of 'earning one's living' has something of the 'original sin' philosophy about it, in the sense that one has to make up for the mere fact of being born by labouring one's entire adult life as a kind of penance for the guilt of being alive and requiring food and shelter. 

Debt slavery through fractional reserve banking and the issuance of fiat currency - a phenomenon alluded to in the film with regards to the whole 'Gold Room' sequence - can indeed be viewed in terms of that puritanical guilt derived from Christian 'original sin'.] 

And indeed when is Jack Torrance revealed to be utterly bananas other than the moment his wife discovers mountains of his typed papers that all read, for the most part, 
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Interestingly, it is only once this crazy hamster-wheel-ethic of work for the sake of work is shown in its raw, naked insanity that the film begins to enter its final phase, when Jack becomes openly predatory and murderous towards his wife and son, thereby in a sense fulfilling the 'dull boy' observation of the typed papers.

The scene where Wendy discovers the papers - a turning point in the movie - may also be a hint by Kubrick at how the capitalist work ethic makes white and blue-collar male workers lash out at their families as they vent their frustration at being superfluous, creatively compromised slaves and cogs in the hierarchical, compartmentalised and technocratic machine of corporate America.

Just as so much of the film The Shining deals, in a veiled way, with the topic of intergenerational abuse - on top of 'the detail' of Native American genocide which forms an implicit backdrop to the movie - so it was essential for Kubrick to place the live-to-work paradigm of the United States in its proper unsavoury and dystopian context.

Addendum - As regards the distinction between work and play, the esoteric wiseman Manly P. Hall was of the view that play is activity done for oneself and work is activity done for others. Narrowing the gap between the two, i.e. trying to do what one loves (play) whilst serving others (work) - be it employers, the public or both who will (or should) compensate that service with money - is often a priority for people of a creative bent who want to minimise their capitalist alienation whereby the spiritual currencies of time and attention - premised as they are on the bodily currency of energy - are exchanged for (an often pitiful) monetary, i.e. quantitative, currency that is technologically and sociologically required - and enforced - to enjoy the benefits precisely of technological society. 

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