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Tainted by association

When I first heard the allegations of serial sexual misconduct against the American folk-rock singer Ryan Adams earlier this year – that he had emotionally and psychologically abused several women and underage girls, using his status in the music industry as leverage – I didn’t want to believe it. Yet this desire to not-believe strongly preceded any acquaintance I had with the actual facts. Indeed – and as I am now ashamed to admit – I initially read the facts with great skepticism, hoping that they were wrong. Only with effort have I forced myself to put aside my initial disbelief, and consider things impartially, making a more balanced assessment. Why?

One answer comes from feminist theory. As a man who has been raised in a male-dominated society, one that tends to privilege the status and testimony of men, and to cast aspersions on those of women – most especially when it comes to issues of sex – I am ideologically conditioned to react this way. Sadly, I suspect there is much truth in this. But it is not the only explanation in play. Another consideration is that I didn’t want Adams to be guilty because I like his music. And the worry that I had – initially, without even realising it – was that, if Adams is indeed guilty, then I won’t be able to enjoy his music any more. And I don’t want that to be the case. Hence, I initially read the accusations against Adams with skepticism, precisely because I (subconsciously) wanted to protect my future enjoyment of his records.

https://aeon.co/essays/why-do-we-allow-objects-to-become-tainted-by-chance-links

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Margaret Atwood’s work illustrates our need to enjoy other people’s pain

A well-crafted worldwide publicity campaign is raising expectations for The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to her Handmaid’s Tale. This, perhaps, is the right moment to take a deeper look into the reasons of our fascination with the dark world of the Republic of Gilead.

Since Gilead is run by Christian fundamentalists, the best way to begin is with theology.

In his Summa Theologica, philosopher Thomas Aquinas concludes that the blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned in order that their bliss be more delightful for them. Aquinas, of course, takes care to avoid the obscene implication that good souls in heaven can find pleasure in observing the terrible suffering of other souls, because good Christians should feel pity when they see suffering. So, will the blessed in heaven also feel pity for the torments of the damned? Aquinas’s answer is no: not because they directly enjoy seeing suffering, but because they enjoy the exercise of divine justice.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/margaret-atwood-handmaids-tale-testaments-human-rights-slavoj-zizek-a9105151.html

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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The Libidinal Economy of Singularity

Our media are more and more fascinated by the prospect of “post-humanity” opened up by a direct link between our brain and a digital machine. To remind readers, this is what is popularly called “Neuralink” and what New Age obscurantists term Singularity, the divine-like global space of shared awareness. But there is an aspect of Singularity that is largely neglected in pop-scientific considerations: the eventual rise of Singularity will also be a case of what we cannot but call post-human capitalism.

One usually assumes that capitalism is (more) historical and our humanity, inclusive of sexual difference, more basic, even ahistorical. However, what we are witnessing today is nothing less than an attempt to integrate the passage to post-humanity into capitalism. And this is, in fact, what the efforts of new billionaire gurus like Elon Musk are about. Their prediction that capitalism “as we know it” is coming to an end refers to “human” capitalism, and the passage they talk about is the passage from “human” to post-human capitalism.

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/the-libidinal-economy-of-singularity/

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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A Literary Fantasy: The Unnameable Subject of Singularity

What kind of apocalypse announces itself in the prospect of the so-called “post-humanity” opened up by a direct link between our brain and a digital machine, popularly called “neuralink” and in the New Age obscurantist-speak —Singularity, the god-like global space of shared awareness? One should resist the temptation to proclaim the prospect of a wired brain an illusion, something that we are still far from and that cannot really be actualized. Such a view is itself an escape from the threat, from the fact that something New and unheard-of is effectively emerging. So, our question should be: what will our entry into Singularity be? The beginning of a new and higher (post-human) realm, or just the disappearance of humanity the way we know it? Or, in some sense (but in what sense?) both at the same time?

I will propose a risky hypothesis here: what if Singularity is not (or, rather, will not be) immersion into collective space but an extremely solipsistic state where each Self (reduced to its selflessness, no longer a self as opposed to others in an intersubjective space) will function in a way similar to what Beckett renders in The Unnameable? To do so, I read Beckett with Jacques-Alain Miller who, in his seminar of 2006-2007, describes the effort of Lacan’s last years at delineating the contours of One alone before the Other, of a hallucination before symbolic reality, of meaningless lapses prior to any signifying articulation.[i]

https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/a-literary-fantasy-the-unnameable-subject-of-singularity/

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Nomadic // Proletarians

In some Leftist circles, the exploding growth of homeless refugees gave rise to the notion of “nomadic proletariat.” The basic idea is that, in today’s global world, the main antagonism (the “primary contradiction”) is no longer between the capitalist ruling class and the proletariat but between those who are safe beneath the cupola of the “civilized” world (with public order, basic rights, etc.) and those excluded, reduced to bare life. “Nomadic proletarians” are not simply outside the cupola but somewhere in-between: their premodern substantial life-form is already in ruins, devastated by the impact of global capitalism, but they are not integrated into the global order, so that they roam in an in-between netherworld. They are not proletarians in the strict Marxian sense: paradoxically, when they enter developed countries, the ideal of most of them is precisely to become “normal” exploited proletarians. Recently, a refugee from Salvador who tried to enter the US on the Mexico-US border said to the TV cameras: “Please, Mr Trump, let us in, we just want to be good hard workers in your country.”

https://thephilosophicalsalon.com/nomadic-proletarians/

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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They Are Both Worse!

Back in the late 1920s, Stalin was asked by a journalist which deviation is worse, the Rightist one (Bukharin&company) or the Leftist one (Trotsky&company), and he snapped back: “They are both worse!” It is a sad sign of our predicament that, when we are confronted with a political choice and obligated to take a side, even if it is only a less bad one, quite often the reply that imposes itself is: “But they are both worse!” This, of course, does not mean that both poles of the alternative simply amount to the same. In concrete situations, we should, for example, conditionally support the protests of the Yellow Vests in France or make a tactical pact with liberals to block fundamentalist threats to our freedoms (say, when fundamentalists want to limit abortion rights or pursue an openly racist politics). But what it does mean is that most of the choices imposed on us by the big media are false choices – their function is to obfuscate a true choice. The sad lesson to be drawn from this is: if one side in a conflict is bad, the opposite side is not necessarily good.

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/they-are-both-worse/

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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Acheronta Movebo

The motto of every authentic radical change is the same as the quote from Virgil that Freud chose as the epigraph for his Interpretation of Dreams. It is Acheronta movebo – I will move the infernal regions. Dare to disturb the underground of the unspoken underpinnings of our everyday lives! There are two such “infernal regions” in our societies: (1) the political unconscious proper, i.e., the vast domain of obscene unwritten rules that supplement public rules, and (2) the digital network which regulates our daily lives, from the public sphere to the innermost intimate sphere. Let’s take a closer look at each of the two.

The Catholic unconscious is structured like paedophilia

The sheer number of paedophiliac crimes that were taking place in the Catholic Church all around the world, from Ireland and Pennsylvania to Australia, crimes committed by members of the institution which propagates itself as the moral compass of our society, compels us to raise some difficult questions. Almost as terrible as the horror of the crimes is the way the Church tried to downplay the scandal.

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/acheronta-movebo/

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Change the world, not yourself, or how Arendt called out Thoreau

It is not often that a neighbourhood squabble is remembered as a world-historical event. In the summer of 1846, Henry David Thoreau spent a single night in jail in Concord, Massachusetts after refusing to submit his poll tax to the local constable. This minor act of defiance would later be immortalised in Thoreau’s essay ‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ (1849). There, he explains that he had been unwilling to provide material support to a federal government that perpetuated mass injustice – in particular, slavery and the Mexican-American war. While the essay went largely unread in his own lifetime, Thoreau’s theory of civil disobedience would later inspire many of the world’s greatest political thinkers, from Leo Tolstoy and Gandhi to Martin Luther King.

https://aeon.co/ideas/change-the-world-not-yourself-or-how-arendt-called-out-thoreau

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2018 in Reportages

 

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Happiness? No, Thanks!

If there is a figure which stands out as the hero of our time, it is Christopher Wylie, a gay Canadian vegan who, at 24, came up with an idea that led to the founding of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britain’s EU membership referendum. Later, he became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trump’s election campaign, creating Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool. Wylie’s plan was to break into Facebook, harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles, and then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.  At a certain point, Wylie was genuinely freaked out: “It’s insane. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? It’s like Nixon on steroids.”[i]

http://thephilosophicalsalon.com/happiness-no-thanks/

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Un appartement à Uranus

Alors qu’au cours de ces derniers mois, ma vie de veille a été, pour reprendre l’euphémisante expression catalane, «bonne, si nous n’entrons pas dans les détails», ma vie onirique a eu la puissance d’un roman d’Ursula K. Le Guin. Au cours de l’un de mes derniers rêves, je discutais avec l’artiste Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster de mon problème : après des années de vie nomade, il m’est difficile de décider d’un lieu où vivre dans le monde. Pendant que nous avions cette conversation, nous observions les planètes tourner doucement sur leur orbite, comme si nous étions deux enfants géants et que le système solaire était un mobile Calder.

 

http://www.liberation.fr/debats/2018/06/01/un-appartement-a-uranus_1656032

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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