Thursday, 31 December 2009

repackaging precarity

“Before the invention of the art of printing, a scholar and a beggar seem to have been terms very nearly synonymous. The different governors of the universities before that time appear to have often granted licences to their scholars to beg.”

John Stuart Mill. 1848.
Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy, John Robson, ed., Vols. 2 and 3 of The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965).
From Michael Perelman's Unsettling Economics

"To the university I'll steal, and there I'll steal," to borrow from Pistol at the end of Henry V, as he would surely borrow from us. This is the only possible relationship to the American university today. This may be true of universities everywhere. It may have to be true of the university in general. But certainly, this much is true in the United States: it cannot be denied that the university is a place of refuge, and it cannot be accepted that the university is a place of enlightenment. In the face of these conditions one can only sneak into the university and steal what one can. To abuse its hospitality, to spite its mission, to join its refugee colony, its gypsy encampment, to be in but not of this is the path of the subversive intellectual in the modern university.

The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses
by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Fever Ray

Derridata is chilling out on Xmas break, but passed on this recommendation for Fever Ray, describing how the music gives one goosebumps and is somewhat reminiscent in places of John Carpenter's scores. Love the imagery in the clips too. I'm hoping this might act as an incentive for Derridata to post again soon. As for me, I've been preoccupied rewriting someone's thesis about the potential impact of human cloning on our future capacity to evolve as a species, given how it may eventually reduce the size of the gene pool. This shouldn't keep me away too much longer though.

As you can see, courtesy of Derridata, Fever Ray ranked as one of The Guardian's top albums of the year. Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

How to Destroy the World

So I am sitting at home on my downtime, idly flipping through a range of texts dealing with the contemporary significance of nihilism. What impresses me is the willingness of authors to interpret this defining problem of modernity in relation to science and technology issues, most especially biopolitics. No doubt there will be a flood of other texts for me to read in the form of Christmas gifts, so I probably won't be getting to The Italian Difference for a while yet. I also hope to get better acquainted with Nihil Unbound and even Conor Cunningham's Genealogy of Nihilism. If I had to relate it to my previous post, and other references I've made to nihilism, my interest is in how the same mindset can crosscut every strata of modern societies. So it's really beside the point to just specify problems in the aesthetic realm as generative of the mindset, when it can clearly migrate to the sciences as well (thereby increasing its political significance). It seems to me that too much attention is given to the "creative process" in a manner that fetishsizes personal idiosyncrasies. Here's a litmus test: read this interview with author Thomas Ligotti, then consider his philosophical magnum opus, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. One finds there a pure distillation of nihilism, in the sense that it marks a renouncement of the Enlightenment project of actively working towards the perfectibility of the world.

In other words, nihilism can help foster epistemological relativism wherein all actions are portrayed as equally doomed to failure. Scientists are treated as no different in this respect. This position marks a decline from the well known trope in which the "mad scientist" retreats to an isolated location, such as an island, where they can lose themselves in "pure research", without worrying about being held accountable by public standards of reason. In these scenarios, (e.g. Frankenstein, The Island of Dr Moreau), the horror came from the personal revelation of having profaned a sacred boundary, for which they are in turn punished when their creations run amok. Hence, at the end of the day, they offered the reassurance of a restoration of order, even in the absence of a public sphere. Such morality tales still presumed that modern society (and therefore science) was worth saving- provided that certain kinds of inquiries remained taboo. But in the more nihilistic register of recent works, scientists deliberately set out to strike a Faustian bargain because they know the consequences will be disastrous for humankind as presently conceived. Science therefore paradoxically becomes the means to realise an entirely new order, which need not even involve humans, or minimally, is compatible with Ligotti's prescribed integration of humans into the "natural world" (to the point where we no longer will anything at all):

"The perfect manner of existence that I’m imagining would be different than that of most mammals, who feed on one another and suffer fear due to this arrangement, much of it coming at the hands of human beings. We would naturally still have to feed, but we probably would not be the omnivorous gourmands and gourmets that we presently are. Of course, like any animal we would suffer from pain in one form or another—that’s the essence of existence—but there wouldn’t be any reason to take it personally, something that escalates natural pain to the level of nightmare. I know that this kind of world would seem terribly empty to most people—no competition, no art, no entertainment of any kind because both art and entertainment are based on conflict between people, and in my world that kind of conflict wouldn’t exist. There would be no ego-boosting activities such as those which derive from working and acquiring more money than you need, no scientific activity because we wouldn’t be driven to improve the world or possess information unnecessary to living, no religious beliefs because those emerge from desperations and illusions from which we would no longer suffer, no relationships because those are based on difference and in the perfect world we’d all be the same person, as well as being integrated into the natural world. Everything we did would be for practical purposes in order to satisfy our natural needs. We wouldn’t be enlightened beings or sages because those ways of being are predicated on the existence of people who live at a lower epistemological stratum".

Not surprisingly, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race reads at times like The Unabomber Manifesto; the linkage here is the ascetic sensibility that Nietzsche observed with respect to science in general, "Science today has no belief in itself, letalone an ideal above it- and where it survives at all as passion, loving glowing intensity, suffering, it constitutes not the opposite of the ascetic ideal but rather its most recent and refined form" (On the Genealogy of Morals, p124). Asceticism can therefore rationalize misanthropy to the point where humanity is hardly considered worth saving, period (for another example, recall Furedi's reference to climate change science in my previous post). Any scientist holding to this standard makes the world view offered by cultural workers such as Boyd Rice look like very small beer indeed.

Here's a satire then of the kind of scientist who embodies Nietzschean ressentiment. The clip specifically references the threat of "grey goo" oftentimes associated with nanotechnology:

On a more serious note, I take some comfort from efforts to risk manage such new technologies for our collective benefit. But I also pay heed to Michael Sandel's warning in his Reith Lecture, Genetics & Morality, that going too far in this direction will in itself create problems. To remove chance, or "contingency" if one prefers, through excessive human engineering, is likely to diminish a sense of responsibility for those less fortunate than ourselves. A success seen as self-made through bioengineering will therefore produce a meritocracy less chastened by chance, and thus harder and less forgiving. Hence Sandel urges, "So I say rather than bioengineer our children and ourselves to fit the world, let's instead create social and political arrangements more hospitable to the gifts and the limitations of the imperfect human beings that we are".

Furthermore, Sandel in effect offers a corrective to the strands in the Transhumanist Movement that espouse liberation biology (which I classify as a variant of Nietzsche's "active nihilism"). Here's something else they should be paying attention to:

For "evolution" into a different species to occur, however, they would need to be fundamentally redesigning the genetic structure of their children, and then those children would have to mate with similarly redesigned neo-homo sapiens to pass on their new attributes. Are the super-rich capable of such coordination? Isn't it just as likely that they'll all redesign themselves in different, innovative ways, and then discover that they are biologically incompatible and incapable of reproducing? Problem solved....And finally, there's an easy way to avoid this dystopian future in which the descendants of Bill Gates and Lloyd Blankfein are born with immaculate complexions, huge brains, and the ability to run 40 yards in under 4.0 seconds. Tax the hell out of the rich, and use it to pay for healthcare for the rest of us neo-Neanderthals. Problem solved, again.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


Yours truly posted a response over on the Traditionalists blog that expanded on some of the themes I talked about in "Loneliness as a Way of Life". My intention was, notwithstanding some typos in my transcription of Ferarra's text, to highlight traditionalism- and by extension neofolk and martial industrial subcultures- as examples of the neoconservative critique of postmodernism. It's one thing then to put the cart before the horse by arguing they are "fascist", but quite another to specify causation and the broader continuum on which its byproducts coexist. I prefer to speak in terms of things being inseparable from but irreducible to something else. It's for this reason that I'll be quoting a piece on "the new misanthropy" in relation to the thesis of "the new naturalism" (the latter was itself the subject of an earlier post).

Sure, it'd be very easy to visit the traditionalists blog and follow the links in the comments thread to Lord Bassington Hound's blog, pausing briefly to marvel at how he co-wrote the infamous study of the black metal scene, Lords of Chaos, with Michael "Blood Axis" Moynihan (an explanation of the programmatic biological conception behind Blood Axis can be found here), only to then worry at the extent to which he appears to trivialise the historical legacy of fascism by treating it as a fashion statement. Provocative as such artistic transgressions may be, they really pale into insignificance in light of the broader public assent associated with the "new naturalism" and "new misanthropy" alike (to be sure, Moynihan has logically gravitated toward Mr Linkola, but as yet there is little evidence of the latter's ideas gaining much purchase outside of his native Norway. Of course, this could change in the future with additional English translations, along with more general societal pessimism about human progress).

I already had an intuitive understanding of the biological ramifications of traditionalism after the reaction on another blog to my earlier post "Colin Wilson neofascist". The man described my post as "shite" for daring to denigrate his hero, and looking around that blog I found much evidence of the traditionalism in question: the misanthropic hatred of a "mass", psychological solutions for social problems predicated on principles of the innate superiority of gifted individuals, the search for a "perennial philosophy" based in Nature. I stopped to chuckle at the design of the blog, which prominently featured a naked, muscular man, with some sort of ornate staff in his right hand. His head resembled the sun (an image of Nature's perennial wisdom, forever burning brightly).

I've regretted ever since that I didn't bookmark that site as I'm sure it would have kept me entertained for years. Anyway, what of this "new misanthropy" then? Furedi offers a succinct appraisal:

"If anything, today's neo-Malthusian thinking is far more dismal and misanthropic than the original thing. For all his intellectual pessimism and lack of imagination, Thomas Malthus believed in humanity far more than his contemporary followers do. He argued, in his book On The Principle of Population, that although 'our future prospects respecting the mitigation of the evils arising from the principle of population may not be so bright as we could wish…they are far from being entirely disheartening, and by no means preclude that gradual and progressive improvement in human society, which before the late wild speculations on this subject, was the object of rational expectation' (10). Malthus' reservations about the human potential were influenced by a hostility to the optimistic humanism of his intellectual opponents, including Condorcet and Godwin. Nevertheless, despite his pessimistic account of population growth, he said 'it is hoped that the general result of the inquiry is not such as not to make us give up the improvement of human society in despair' (11).

Over the past two centuries, Malthus' followers often disparaged people who came from the 'wrong classes' or the 'wrong races' - but despite their prejudices they affirmed the special status of the human species. In some instances, such as the eugenic movement, rabid prejudice against so-called racial inferiors combined with a belief in human progress (12). Today's neo-Malthusians share the old prejudices, but in addition they harbour a powerful sense of loathing against the human species itself."

Furedi situates his discussion with reference to the "human impact" decried by certain segments of the contemporary environmental movement. Indeed, if you substitute "environment" for "religious calling" in my Ferrara quotation, then you can see that Furedi is pretty much saying the same thing about the- well, basically speaking- conservative character of the conservation movement. If the traditionalist music scene has any real collective sense of surviving in the hostile conditions of the interregnum, we can only guess what form their consecrating action might take in response. I'm just hoping that these perspectives never attain critical mass, or we will be living in truly dismal times.

Another part of the problem of course, which I touched on briefly in my "Heathen Harvests" post, is the sense of living in a post-socialist world. Among traditionalists, this seems to have coalesced into a world view which is presumptively asocial, at least outside of the sense of trust (or "social capital") to be gained from membership in their subcultural networks (sometimes in addition to the intimacy [sic] with strangers familiar from the more traditional bastions of the masculine, bohemian demimonde: i.e. the pub, the brothel, and the racetrack). I understand these networks then as compensating for the intensification of individual experience associated with being a freelance cultural worker (or "artist" if you prefer), who by definition subsists without the collegiality found in other workplaces, where membership of a union remains an option. As per "Heathen Harvests", consider Boyd Rice as an example. He didn't receive any remuneration for the design consultancy work he did on a Tiki Bar. Given the informal nature of the contract, Rice resolved not to pursue official legal arbitration. Instead, he and some associates simply showed up in the middle of the night and dismantled the bar. After that, Boyd could return to his support networks on the avant garde scene, which presuppose the recognition of individual charisma, and have at various times been a mixture of Satanic Nazism and Ragnar Redbeard's [sic] social Darwinism ("Might Is Right!").

I've seen this kind of thing happen firsthand, so I know Boyd Rice is not just an isolated case. I'll never forget the folks who had completed album artwork for small labels, who suffered the same fate. I remember another incident when some people I knew had just finished their set in a small electronic music festival, and the guy running the gig fronted them: "ok then, let's see what I owe you". He just rooted around in his wallet, and produced a small handful of crumpled notes, "thanks guys", leaving the band to distribute among themselves the appearance fee he had spontaneously calculated on the spot. So when you experience this kind of precarity on a regular basis, it's very easy to overcompensate by channelling ressentiment into a misanthropic "outsider" worldview, in tandem with more "esoteric" sources of personal or communitarian validation. This can mean "turning inward", and it follows that the guys I knew in the aforementioned group worshipped Colin Wilson, while another was the self-proclaimed anarchist who featured in my post "The Quiet Men".

Still not convinced? Just check out this guy for another local example. It seems like he's spent a lot of time beavering away for small publishers, and is obviously resentful of the advent of "mass" blogging. Never mind that, judging by what I see on his website, it is hard to fathom his personal sense of superiority that the majority of humanity is comprised of what he disparagingly refers to as "sheeple". Note too that his Misanthrope Magazine fittingly published a fatuous interview with none other than Boyd Rice in the inaugural issue.

I suspect the same holds true to some extent for the "scenius" [sic] of the so-called "England's Hidden Reverse", where "chaos magic" and other traditionalist conventions are much in evidence. Anyway, I haven't said so much here about the specifics of Furedi's argument, as I think it's already pretty obvious how it links to the thesis of "the new naturalism": i.e. the degradation of humanity, with few prospects for redemption. I've spent more time talking about the musical subcultures. However, I can extrapolate from Furedi's following statement some implicit linkages, "More recently, apocalyptic ideas once rooted in magic and theology have been recast as allegedly scientific statements about human destructiveness and irresponsibility". No doubt "apocalyptic [neo] folk" musicians such as Ian Read from Fire + Ice or David Tibet from Current 93 would claim some personal acquaintance with these ideas in their original context, even though the former is willing to make a minor concession, when asked if he is still against the modern world, "I am a traditionalist, but I am very happy with the fact there is a modern stomatology for instance".

I couldn't resist closing this out by posting a David E Williams song. Williams follows the conventions pretty closely. I understand that, in addition to his musical activities, he's the proprietor of an occult bookstore. His misanthropic proclivities have garnered some acclaim on the underground scene. Notice in the clip how they find expression through his disdain for "mass" tourism, which he crudely equates to femininity and the sociality of primates.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

"It's a good day to die, when you know the reasons why"

JAY: First of all, let's just start with President Obama's stated reason for sending these troops to Afghanistan. Do you think this is the reason for sending thirty more thousand troops? Al-Qaeda?

WILKERSON: I think you have to examine the decision that he made in all of its dimensions. You didn't mention that I also teach. You didn't need to. What I teach is presidential national security decision-making—"fateful decisions", I call them, decisions to send young men and young women to die for state purposes.

JAY: I thought there was a moment there when President Obama came out and looked at the audience and saw he's talking about kids. I'm not sure that was the best place to make this speech, a room full of 22-year-olds.

WILKERSON: Yeah. There were some good aspects to it and some bad aspects to it. But it did, I think, mean he had to give a somber, sober, and sane speech that had lacked rhetorical flourish. He does not have the bona fides for speaking with rhetorical flourishes. I applaud him for recognizing that. Some have criticized the speech for being too realistic, too practical, too low-key. It's exactly what he needed to give. I've talked to that audience two, three in the last two years, staff, faculty, and cadets.

JAY: At West Point.

WILKERSON: At West Point. And it's been a sobering affair for me. They are concerned about where they're going. They're not happy in some respects about where they're going. This is not the conventional wisdom. They're not at all happy about where they're going [inaudible]

JAY: Yeah, there weren't a lot of hurrah-hurrahs going on there last night.

WILKERSON: A lot of the staff and faculty there are not happy about what they're seeing happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan or generally with their armed forces. Now, let's face it. The land forces have been at this now for seven, eight, going on nine years, if we count Afghanistan exclusively. They're about broken. The bill for repairing my army, your army, America's army, its probably upwards of $100 billion right now, just to replace the equipment—the airplanes, helicopters, and so forth—that we've destroyed or gravely damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a different military right now. I daresay that it probably couldn't fight a conventional war, because we've got artillerymen being infantryman, we've got MPs being infantrymen. We've got different kinds of enemy out there, and when you spend this much time after that enemy, you change your ethos, you change your training, you change the way you feel about conflict. It's a very different military right now.

"Obama's choice" pure politics

Lawrence Wilkerson: Obama's campaign rhetoric and his generals put him in a corner on Afghanistan

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

"We are our own worst enemies"

High time then for some John Mowitt:

Marx himself, wily Moor that he was, provides important if unwitting insight
when in elaborating the related distinction between productive and
unproductive labor he writes: “A schoolmaster who instructs others is not a
productive worker. But a schoolmaster who works for wages in an institution
along with others, using his own labor to increase the mon ey of the entrepreneur who owns the knowledge-mongering institution, is a productive worker.”
And then the “phrase that pays”: “But for the most part, work of this sort has scarcely reached the stage of being subsumed even formally under capital and belongs essentially to a transitional stage” (Capital 1044). As a reiteration of a parallel he earlier draws between professors and masters within the context of guild production (1029), the later formulation invites one to consider both whether with the advent of the global society of control, school teaching in fact remains lost in transition somewhere between the pre-formal, the formal and the real subsumption of labor, but also to what extent and with what significance does education factor, and factor decisively in Marx’s thinking about the becoming real, of formal subsumption. As both matters may be further agitated in the ensuing discussion I’ll not develop them further except to assert, in the interest of effecting a transition of my own, that from where I sit the transition is over.

The university is a “knowledge-mongering institution” and school teaching is now productive labor, which is precisely why syndicalism has asserted itself with urgency, if not success, in every corner of the educational field, but also, more ominously why the drumbeat of “deliverables” has become tortuously loud.

An academic speculative bubble?

I hope to resume normal blogging later this week. But until that time, Derridata, further to the previous post, I decided in the later part of this post to reproduce part of our previous email exchange, which originally focused on this.

What's interesting to us is the ongoing ways in which these financial discourses frame the attempts of certain philosophers to account (!) for "the economics of attention" related to their work. I find this particularly interesting insofar as it uses political economy to critique the "object fetishism" of Speculative Realism (scroll down to Bryan K's comment in the previous link and you'll get more ideas on where this could go in the future). Harman is apparently someone given to remarking how the "stock" of other philosopher's is losing value, when as you remarked before, the abstracting of equivalences implied by such comments hides the work of making equivalent.

I can see other noxious effects of this way of thinking. Caricaturing critics as "grey vampires" amounts to little more than the logic of "possessive individualism": more people read the blog being criticised than the one written by the critic, so ergo,the former is somehow automatically inherently superior to the latter. But if the former has done nothing to really establish that the basis of its appeal is democratic populism, any appeal becomes limited by its anchoring in either personal idiosyncrasies, rhetoric, ignorance of viable alternatives, or even, dare I say it, successful niche marketing (my next post hopes to elaborate on this point). This becomes most obvious when attempts are made to rebuff critics who argue it is objectionable that monopolies on the attention space are undemocratic, because they reduce the plurality of the blogosphere. I side with neither of these positions. Some abstract ideal of pluralism in and of itself is not necessarily desirable. No, it is the capacity to speak on behalf of an ethical constituency ordered by particular structuring principles that really counts.

I can explain what I mean by noting the significance of Harman's reference to Nietzsche's legacy to justify his own philosophical enterprise (just Google "grey vampires"). By this reckoning, Nietzsche's true significance lies with his willingness to risk mistakes, to confound orthodoxies. So, even though he made many mistakes, he ultimately cleared a pathway for other thinkers. Putting to one side the dubiousness of comparing himself to Nietzsche in terms of distinction and abilities, Harman's reasoning really goes awry by not contextualising Nietzsche with respect to the university. Nietzsche resigned his academic post aged 24, so he spent the balance of his life as a thinker outside the walls of the university. That his work has since been able to serve a pedagogical function attests to the structuring principle of the university: its capacity to horizontally redistribute any risks or rewards associated with the breaking of established forms. It is the kind of democratisation, for example, that Raymond Williams wished to operationalise in his conception of "a common culture". If I understand his argument correctly, the same might be said about Steve Fuller's arguments in The Governance of Science, which hold that the "right to be wrong" needs to be institutionalised. Thus it's clearly political and dependent on the establishment of a constitution. There is no point then in simply valorising the "flexibility" of certain thinkers to move in and out of the institution for its own [precarious] sake, in the manner of the blogger I criticised in my "Melissa Gregg" post- who, not coincidentally, is also one of Harman's staunchest supporters.

While I endorse the opening up of academic discourse to a more public conception of extended peer review, I'm also suspicious when this presumes the initial bypassing of peer review in the university itself. My hypothesis is that there is usually an inverse relationship between the most prominent theoretical voices in the blogosphere, and the attention they receive in the university. Anyone with institutional access could test this by doing a comparative search on library databases of authors and then try out Technorati and other blogsearch tools. I suspect that very junior faculty are disproportionately represented in the blogosphere, when compared with institutional measures of, in addition to their publication records, winning of internal and external grants, PhD supervision, and esteem measures. But I say this not to damn the blogosphere tout court, only to suggest that it is undesirable when it fails to give the university its proper due as a social technology. To use economic terms again, this is a debt that must be acknowledged, even if it can never be fully repaid (for what constitution could ever govern the blogosphere?).

To be sure, when academic peer review goes wrong, it can be as nasty as anything you'll find in the blogosphere, (producing the phenomenon known as scholarshit):

...but I still acknowledge the debt, as I know I wouldn't be editing or blogging if I'd never gone to university.

Another interesting find of late offers some confirmation of my predictions in my earlier "carbon chauvinism" posts regarding the future of Speculative Realism. Yup, there are some attempts at damage control already because SR is being brought into alignment with questions of animal rights. You can get some sense of the basis for the objections here, and then try exploring that blog further to see how things are shaping up. Be sure to read Anthony Paul Smith's comment on The Inhumanities too.

"Public schooling is the antithesis of democracy": war on kids

Derridata, I have to reproduce your latest email here, hope you don't mind. But we've been exchanging so much stuff in email I can't always keep track of it all, as I still know blogger's functionality better than gmail's. We've had some really indepth dialogues in our emails, as well as just touching on other stuff worth checking out. They're so meaty they'd have made great blog content! Seeing not much was posted on Acheron last month, thought I'd add this (which I think complements the earlier Ivan Illich post too):

Saw this documentary on Colbert Nation and had to check it out. Features Henry Giroux AND video footage of that incredible "armed police invade high school" that featured on Russ Kick's Memory Hole in 2003. I still remember the chilling line accompanying the security photos: "Uncommented upon in news accounts is the presence of this military man".

Check the quote below from Woodrow Wilson. The following would be the most appropriate title for a blog dedicated to exposing business culture- On Being Hateful of Business Schools:

I think War on Kids also draws on John Taylor Gatto's book, The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling (New York: Oxford Village Press, 2001). It is a profoundly important, unnerving book, which I recommend most highly. It can be ordered or read for free online from
Gatto's Website:

Check this quote from p74 of Bruce E Levine's excellent book Commmonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society (New York: Continuum Publishing Group, 2001).
President Woodrow Wilson would echo these sentiments in a speech to businessmen: We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks. Writes Gatto: "Another major architect of standardized testing, H.H. Goddard, said in his book Human Efficiency (1920) that government schooling was about 'the perfect organization of the hive.'" While President of Harvard from 1933 to 1953, James Bryant Conant wrote that the change to a forced, rigid, potential-destroying educational system had been demanded by "certain industrialists and the innovative who were altering the nature of the industrial process."

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

"Loneliness as a Way of Life"

I read the description of this book and I could immediately see how it would differ from the kind of approach I tried out in my earlier "The Quiet Men" post. Here's the blurb:

To be sure, it's a difficult subject to talk about without sounding mawkish. It's a brave thing then for a political scientist to do; willingly taking himself out of his "objective" comfort zone by writing about personal experience. I regard Dumm as working in a tradition of critical humanism. His recourse to literary models is also suggestive of a divergence from a sociological approach to theodicy though, insofar as "the human condition" is represented as a universal state of affairs. Not least of all, I'm certain that feminists could be justified in taking him to task for the emphasis the book places on "the missing mother". This blog has consciously avoided those kinds of metaphors, enquiring instead whether, for example, Furries and Realdolls may be construed as substitutes for intimacy, or if they are more symptomatic of a postmodern blurring of public/private space and time:your work friends feature in the afterhours production line, as your free time is used to network for the sake of career advancement. The workplace itself is increasingly decorated with pictures and trinkets from home. Television becomes dominated by stranger intimacy, and couldn't the same be said about the blogosphere acting as a confessional mode?

It is a very curious phenomena how under conditions of individualization it becomes necessary to work out if and when new collective forms of action take shape. The key question is how the bubbling, contradictory process of individualization and de-nationalization can be cast into new democratic forms of organization. This does not presume a denial of increasing inequalities, but rather the complicity of individualization as one of the problems to be addressed. Apparently, the more people are individualized, the more they produce de-individualizing consequences for others. We can infer from this why Dumm's "missing mother" may be drawing a very long bow: consider a woman who files for divorce and whose husband feels he's left facing the void (and please note that this hypothetical example is not attributing blame to either party). In the ensuring tussle over custody of the kids, each tries to impose on the other the dictates of their respective lives. Following Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck Gernsheim's thesis of "the normal chaos of love", it is possible to discern both a positive sum game of co-individualization and a negative sum game of contra-individualization. In the words of the former, "It would seem reasonable to suppose that the irritation caused by the other's resistance strengthens the urge for a new, and perhaps seemingly 'democratic', authoritarianism."

I smiled when I read that as it really captured the paradoxes of the character type I tried to describe in "The Quiet Men". Here was someone advocating some kind of neo-anarchist communitarianism on a very small scale, who also proclaimed himself to be a "Left Anarchist" (but when did he last show solidarity with anything/anyone?). The ideal in question was the organisation of everyday life around fairly intense, interpersonal relationships, because the impersonal buffer provided by the state and large chainstores was absent (I'm no apologist for liberal capitalism, but the subject in itself of the cold intimacies of capitalism will have to await a future post). I could see the contradictions, so I did some more research. Eventually I came across another book called The Loner's Manifesto. One anecdote was a real standout for me, as it graphically illustrated the seeming inescapability of the aforementioned "democratic authoritarianism". The author described how her friend, a music student, was not really a "people person". This friend had developed a romantic notion that life in less developed countries would be somehow less "phony" than what she was accustomed to at home, so she organised to study through an exchange program. She soon discovered though how this meant that even the smallest interaction involved bargaining. She thus felt pressured to always actively display "presence" because she was unable to just sleepwalk through social engagements by using the blase attitude that had served as a protective device back at home. Suffice to say, she was unable to continue her studies, and returned home as soon as possible.

I can only say this because there have been times when I've understood how it feels to exist in a liminal state: as a student (poised between study and graduation to something else), and an un/underemployed person. A lot of the music I listened to during these periods appealed to me as it seemed to address my concerns. I discovered how the inherent limitations of the lifestyle could foster identification with the sense of living through an interregnum, as described by Death In June for example: "then my loneliness closes in/so I drink a German wine/and drift in dreams of other lives and greater times." It already felt like I had an intuitive foothold on the recurrent themes in Joy Division's songs: "but if you could just see the beauty/of things I could never describe/these pleasures a wayward distraction/this is my one lucky prize". I still believe that Ian Curtis' most fully realised statement about this temporal/spatial ordering was Colony:

I can't see why all these confrontations
I can't see why all these dislocations
No family life - this makes me feel uneasy
Stood alone here in this colony
In this colony

Over time I became more discriminating- particularly once I understood how scary it really was when personal dilemmas are projected onto a much larger scale- thereby lending new meaning to Beck's paradoxical formulations. Small wonder then perhaps that many of the groups following in Joy Division's wake, such as Death In June, became more authoritarian, or rather, "martial industrial", in tone. This sensibility was already implied, of course, to some degree by Joy Division's choice of name, which referenced the use of prostitutes in Nazi concentration need to negotiate intimacy in that context and risk incurring reciprocal demands...or by the same token, authoritarianism was tragically inevitable, proceeding apace with the process of individualization. "Isolation" specifically mentions, "Surrendered to self-preservation
/From others who care for themselves." But just
in case anyone still missed the point, the well known posthumously released single was called "Love Will Tear Us Apart".

The imagery of later album covers chosen by martial industrial/neofolk groups, typically featuring marble statues and monuments, gradually transmuted into an elegy for a dormant Europa (here I acknowledge Roger Griffin sending me a related article previously referred to in my "Fascism & Electronic Music" post)- whereas Joy Division's swansong, Closer, had intimated the horror of "the normal chaos of love" (making it consistent with the rest of their oeuvre). Notwithstanding these differences, it would clearly be a mistake to ignore how each exists on the same continuum (and Death In June still managed to produce the odd song about doomed romance e.g. "Hail the White Grain!").



Speaking for myself, thinking a way out of these states has in effect meant remaining mindful of Bachelard's maxim: "a creature that withdraws into its shell is preparing a way out". During my student days I certainly tried to avoid becoming a victim of the book. I never entertained fantasies of anything like an altruistic suicide being tantamount to a "democratic authoritarianism", in which "dead people are all on the same level" (if you've seen Badlands, and read about the case on which it's based, you'll know what I'm talking about). Read Mark Seltzer's description of Dennis Nielsen in his Serial Killers too and you'll better understand this crazy idea of the authoritarian "exterminating angel" burning his victims in a funeral pyre; the intermingling of their bodies/identities is facilitated by their reduction to ash and smoke, thereby paradoxically attaining a ["democratic"] commonality denied them during their lives (shades of Bataille at work here too). I can safely leave it to Death In June to betray a hint of desperation in their self-appointed role as keepers of the flame:

And, when the ashes of life
Fall down from the skies
Rose clouds of holocaust
Rose clouds of lies...

Prospects for any escape from the interregnum must be slim indeed if this is the most realistic remaining option, right? It's true though, I have on rare occasions had a [superficially] comparable fantasy about how great it might be hear the title track (which heavily samples the climax of The Wicker Man) from Blood Axis' The Gospel of Inhumanity at my funeral, particularly as the coffin is lowered into the ground. Just imagine the voice of Edward Woodward's character substituting for mine from the coffin, while Christopher Lee et al are orchestrating the proceedings above ground ("Prepare the sacrifice!!" orders Lee, only to be admonished in turn by Woodward/me, "Awaken thee heathens!!!!!"). There's some black humour for you, but it's probably the kind of sendoff I'd deem most appropriate for myself. Then and again, I could even marginally prefer Wooden Ships by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner (not that I am planning a departure anytime soon):

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it's supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
Talkin' 'bout very free and easy...
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving - you don't need us.

Go, take your sister then, by the hand,
lead her away from this foreign land,
Far away, where we might laugh again,
We are leaving - you don't need us.

And it's a fair wind, blowin' warm,
Out of the south over my shoulder,
Guess I'll set a course and go...

But I digress...The bottom line is that I before I go, I should really bring this all back home. Dumm imbues his writing with considerable pathos, and that is most of all what this posting does not want to lose sight of, because it undoubtedly breeds some of the best and worst characteristics of modern societies. It can be generative of many voluntary forms of association in civil society, and as such constitutes a viable alternative to the problems Beck chronicles. But this kind of success is not always the case, and I believe many examples could be pressed into service to buttress my point (even after making allowance for any cultural differences):

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Good Soldier

Re-writing Mahmoud's PhD has kept me away from blogging, and now I'm beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms as a result. So much incredible material to talk about, so little time. Be this as it may- from what I've seen- advance notices for the PBS documentary The Good Soldier have been very good (with Howard Zinn, for example, singing its praises). At the same time, I've heard about, but haven't yet read, Kari's work on soldiers' representations of what she calls "body horror" (in the latest issue of Media, Culture & Society). I think she will probably refer back to her analysis of, which was a controversial site soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan could use to upload pictures of their naked girlfriends, along with the bloody carnage censored from the mainstream media. That site was eventually closed down, so please think carefully before choosing to type "" into a Google Images search, as you will come across some of the imagery, now hosted on other sites. I'm not adding any of that here as I think The Good Soldier offers eloquent enough testimony in its own right. One to file alongside Joanna Burke's Intimate History of Killing.

Unfortunately, I can't find any footage of Kari talking about "body horror", but the following clip is still quite interesting, as she talks more generally about the kind of media environment that phenomena is symptomatic of. I also found the clip refreshing as it gave me a chance to look at an academic's bookshelves, with Kari's appearing more varied and interesting than the more postmodern and poststructuralist variety of media theory that dominates the blogosphere and some versions of cultural studies (read: the "Ballardian" brigade, Baudrillard, McLuhan, Kittler et al). Indeed, she makes a veiled critical reference to such works by mentioning how historical examples can still help qualify the excesses of utopian and dystopian thinking alike (not uncommon, for example, in exaggerated misreadings of Ballard- as I've argued previously in response to Seltzer's use of "the atrocity exhibition" in relation to "the pathological public sphere").

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Monday, 26 October 2009

The New Naturalism

What you post here about the video installations got me reflecting back on some of the Taiwanese scholars/artists I've worked with (writing promos for their exhibitions, rewriting academic journal articles, dissertations etc). Mostly what I've found though is an attentiveness to "invented traditions", such as, for example, digitising a famous old painting such as City of Cathay with a view to acquainting a younger generation with its significance through a medium they are more interested and familiar with (which entails giving them avatars so they can walk around in the painting, as it were).

Perhaps your posts are closer in some respects then to Thailand's "Pink Man", which has appeared on this blog. It got me thinking more about the characterisation of a "new naturalism" allegedly permeating contemporary pop culture. I don't mean this in the sense that the Taiwanese works are exemplary of that, but rather how to go about setting a more appropriate context for reading them. I think it's tricky because the Jumpcut article in question is lumping together a number of American programs to buttress its case, but we know that if they are read as a commodity form then this implies a certain serial process of translating difference into equivalency. Those bloggers who talk about "capitalist realism" and the Jumpcut author's thesis of "the new naturalism" would probably converge on this basic point. But how much explanatory power does it have when you consider something like the globalisation of anime culture? Is it simply the embodiment of a Manichean world view or is it irreducible to the tropes of disenchantment presupposed by such an assessment? So I know you have published on anime of course already, but how about that (i.e. the applicability of "the new naturalism" to anime) as the topic of a collaboration? Afterall, there is another tradition which acknowledges how a "turn to the East" [sic] has often served as a tonic of re-enchantment for an exhausted, "nihilistic", Occidental rationality.

The other reason I raise this with you is as a pretext for justifying my guilty pleasures of late, which have been keeping me, along with other stuff I've been doing, away from blogging. I've been watching a bunch of Adult Swim American animation on DVD, and I am stunned by not only the animation techniques themselves, but the quick fire darkly satirical style, which might possibly be described as the "New Naturalism".

For example, I am amazed to watch something such as Metalocalypse, which depicts a black metal band who are so commercially successful that they generate profits larger than the economies of some small Scandinavian countries. There is a surreal juxtaposition in the program between their public image as demi-gods, intermediaries in the Great Chain of Being, and their everyday banality. In one episode, for example, the band stage a concert promotion for a brand of coffee on an epic scale; inviting hardcore fans to a remote location, some of whom carry injuries as a result of the previous concerts they have attended. As night falls, the tribe gather on the plain on a mountain top: the band's military style helicopter drops an enormous cube, which misses its intended target- crushing to death some fans and mutilating others. The sides of the cube fall away to reveal a stage- the band had descended from the heavens like gods from a machine- and so the concert begins, to rapturous applause. Apparently the worship of the commodity form disguises itself as a form of re-enchantment, substituting "rock stars" as its followers subsist in increasingly feudal conditions (as opposed to the representation of spirits in contemporary anime?). Or rather, to quote Matt Stahl:

"The contemporary popular musical performer - as author - embodies a robust form of the labor theory of property as it is codified in copyright law and fixed in the popular imagination. This represents not so much a special creative achievement of authors, or a qualitative difference in the form their labor takes from those of others, but rather their ability to preserve themselves, through fortuitous alignments and alliances with capital and the state, from conditions of appropriation endured by the vast majority of working people in capitalism, conditions that Jason Read has identified as the ongoing process of what Marx's translators call the 'primitive accumulation' of capital".

Yes, I'm interested in how "primitive accumulation" works in conjunction with "the new naturalism", but am just wondering how we might qualify its global representations? Similar questions prompt some other reading I've been doing to follow up on my earlier "Heathen Harvests" post, which can be made more vivid by inclusion of video clips, but alas this post is already taking longer than I had planned, so I have to turn my attention to more pressing matters. Here then is the definition of "the new naturalism" I'm interrogating:

"In this manner, shows like BSG, Enterprise, The Sopranos, Deadwood, and 24, among others, can be called a new genre, the New Naturalism, one marked by a kind of violent ambivalence. In the New Naturalism, no guiding moral tone is taken about dubious characters whose actions grow increasingly suspect. Without a guiding moral tone — which represents, in addition to a potential naiveté or sentimentalism, a courageous decision to put one’s values out there — the series can maintain a detached, neo-Naturalistic outlook on its characters. But as the New Naturalism shows evince, this detachment can be duplicitous and serve as a cover for a highly cynical desire to offer an unremittingly pessimistic social view. Much more troublingly, it can be a deeply hypocritical stance, one that purports to be objective but actually is much more idiosyncratically and commercially driven. These days, despair sells. Watching any number of reality series or fictional ones in the New Naturalism vein, we see people and scripted characters writhe in torment and humiliation. We see human nature at its most “raw,” its most “willful,” in its most “natural” state. This is no less a construction and a fantasy than Star Trek’s prevailing utopian future of peaceful, cooperative humanity. It’s just the cynical and no less adamantly maintained alternative to utopian optimism".

For now I can leave it to Killface to serve as the spokesperson for the New Naturalism...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Studio Banana TV interviews Taiwanese videoartist Chen Chieh Jen

Taiwan has become a ‘fast-forgetting’ consumer society that has abandoned its right to ’self-narration’ and this has spurred me to resist the tendency to forget. One of my methods of resistance is to view each film I make as an act of connection, linking together the history of people who have been excluded from the dominant discourse, the real-life situations of areas that are being ignored, and ‘others’ who are being isolated. In this way, I resist the state of amnesia in consumer society.

-------Chen Chieh-Jen

"All of Chen’s video works are produced and shot on high-quality 16 or 35 millimeter film, which is then converted onto DVD format and looped for museum presentation.

Chen’s video works are also produced without spoken lines, voice-overs, or music; in his view, this is a reflection of the condition of marginal areas that have been silenced. The exception is Lingchi, where tiny sounds may be heard on and off for a few seconds at a time. These sounds are recordings of the electromagnetic waves emitted by Chen’s own skin; in this way, the artist physically inserts himself into the work. 'Chen’s video works are unique in so many ways. For example, Chen looks intently into the morphological differences and similarities between photography, video, and film,' said Miwako Tezuka, curator of the exhibition. 'His slowly panning video images, as sleek and grand as film, move out and away, slowly, from the medium of photography for which he is also well known.'

Studio Banana TV Interviews Chen Chieh Jen

The Gaze of Revolt: Chen Chieh-Jen's historical images and his aesthetic of horror

History has been lingchi-ed, that is, chopped and severed as human bodies. Violence is also gradually internalized, institutionalized and hidden. We do not see where we are and what was before us. We do not see the violence of history or that of the State either. That is the reason why we need to gaze at the images of horror and penetrate through them. Is the dark abyss of wounds not the very crack that we need to pass through so as to arrive at the state of full-realization and self-abandonment?

---Chen Chieh-Jen, About the Forms of My Works

"The trilogy of Lost Voice reaches at the pinnacle of the display of extreme horror. These pictures are based on a photo taken in 1946, during the Civil War period, when the Communist armies took Chongli, 90 miles northern to Zhang Jia Kou, and slaughtered the whole village. The lumps of corpses appear already like a scene in hell. The ecstasy displayed on the face of the self-masturbating and auto-mutilating figures, Chen Chieh-Jen as the models, in transport of joy, dancing on the lumps of corpses, looking back at us, pushes the exasperating painful scene to the extreme."

"We have to view these pictures as an epic, not of the heroes or victories, but of the fate of Chinese in the first half of the twentieth century. It is also an epic of the happenings of human psychic underneath the historical traumatic events. Through these historical photographic images, the histories of Chinese penalties and its residues, Chiang Kai-shek’s slaughtering the communist members during the Qingdang period, the massacres between the Communists and the Kuomintang armies during the Civil War, the Japanese’ colonial domination and manipulation over the Taiwanese, and the intra-ethnic slaughterings among the Taiwanese aboriginals, all re-emerge in front of the audience, but in a very ambiguous and phantasmal mode. The play of the spectatorship and the perverse jouissance make the scenes much crueler than the original historical photo-texts originally intended to be. The recurrence of the double motif in all these pictures seems to further suggest Chen Chieh-Jen’s interpretation of the Chinese-Taiwanese condition, or the splitting of the human psyche. Moreover, Chen Chieh-Jen placed himself in all these pictures, in various roles, as signatures of different identities, and multiplies the ambiguity of the subject position in these acts of violence."

"The Gaze of Revolt:Chen Chieh-Jen's historical images and his aesthetic of horror" by Joyce C. H. Liu

Lingchi:Echoes of a Historical Photograph
Chen Chieh-Jen

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Plug into the new American dream
Sleep Dealer

"Set largely on the U.S.-Mexico border, Sleep Dealer depicts a world in which borders are closed but high-tech factories allow migrant workers to plug their bodies into the network to provide virtual labor to the North. The drama that unfolds in this dystopian setting delves deep into issues of immigration, labor, water rights, and the nature of sustainable development.

"Rivera's film drew attention by winning two awards at the Sundance Film Festival — the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for the best film focusing on science and technology. Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan wrote of the movie, "Adventurous, ambitious and ingeniously futuristic, Sleep Dealer…combines visually arresting science fiction done on a budget with a strong sense of social commentary in a way that few films attempt, let alone achieve."

Rivera spoke with Foreign Policy In Focus senior analyst Mark Engler by phone from Los Angeles, where the director was attending the local premier of his movie.

MARK ENGLER: How do you describe your film?

ALEX RIVERA: Sleep Dealer is a science fiction thriller that takes a look at the future from a perspective that we've never seen before in science fiction. We've seen the future of Los Angeles, in Blade Runner. We've seen the future of Washington, D.C., in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. We've seen London and Chicago. But we've never seen the places where the great majority of humanity actually lives. Those are in the global South. We've never seen Mexico; we've never seen Brazil; we've never seen India. We've never seen that future on film before.

MARK ENGLER: Your main character, Memo Cruz, is from rural Mexico, from Oaxaca. In many ways, the village that we see on film is very similar to many poor, remote communities today. It doesn't necessarily look like how we think about the future at all. What was your conception of how economic globalization would affect communities like these?

ALEX RIVERA: One of the things that fascinates me about the genre is that, explicitly or not, science fiction is always partly about development theory. So when Spielberg shows us Washington, DC with 15-lane traffic flowing all around the city, he's putting forward a certain vision of development.

Sleep Dealer starts in Oaxaca, and to think about the future of Oaxaca, you have to think about how so-called "development" has been happening there and where might it go. And it's not superhighways and skyscrapers. That would be ridiculous. So, in the vision I put forward, most of the landscape remains the same. The buildings look older. Most of the streets still aren't paved. And yet there are these tendrils of technology that have infiltrated the environment. So instead of an old-fashioned TV, there is a high-definition TV. Instead of a calling booth like they have today in Mexican villages, where people call their relatives who are far away, in this future there is a video-calling booth. There's the presence of a North American corporation that has privatized the water and that uses technology to control the water supply. There are remote cameras with guns mounted on them and drones that do surveillance over the area.

The vision of Oaxaca in the future and of the South in the future is a kind of collage, where there are still elements that look ancient, there is still infrastructure that looks older even than it does today, and yet there are little capillaries of high technology that pulse through the environment.

MARK ENGLER: How far into the future did you set the film?

ALEX RIVERA: I started working on the ideas in Sleep Dealer 10 years ago, and at that point I thought I was writing about a future that was 40 or 50 years away, or maybe a future that might not ever happen. Over this past decade, though, the world has rapidly caught up with a lot of the fantasy nightmares in the film. That's been an interesting process.

But, you know, a lot of times we use the word "futuristic" to describe things that are kind of explosions of capital, like skyscrapers or futuristic cities. We do not think of a cornfield as futuristic, even though that has as much to do with the future as does the shimmering skyscraper.

MARK ENGLER: In what sense?

ALEX RIVERA: In the sense that we all need to eat. In the sense that the ancient cornfields in Oaxaca are the places that replenish the genetic supply of corn that feeds the world. Those fields are the future of the food supply.

For every futuristic skyscraper, there's a mine someplace where the ore used to build that structure was taken out of the ground. That mine is just as futuristic as the skyscraper. So, I think Sleep Dealer puts forward this vision of the future that connects the dots, a vision that says that the wealth of the North comes from somewhere. It tries to look at development and futurism from this split point of view — to look at the fact that these fantasies of what the future will be in the North must always be creating a second, nightmare reality somewhere in the South. That these things are tied together.

MARK ENGLER: It's interesting that at the recent Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gave President Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America. This is a book that was written over 30 years ago, but that really emphasizes the same point that you are making now, that underdevelopment is not an earlier stage of development, but rather is the product of development. That development and underdevelopment go hand in hand.

ALEX RIVERA: Exactly. And I think that you can also add immigration into that mix. Because the history that Open Veins lays out is a lot about resource exploitation and transfer from South to North. And today, of course, one of the main entities that places like Mexico export is workers.

MARK ENGLER: There's a quote from the film that says a lot. Memo's boss, who runs this sort of high-tech Mexican sweatshop, says, "We give the United States what it's always wanted. All the work without the workers." Can you describe this concept of the "cybracero" that you have been developing?sleepdealer2

ALEX RIVERA: The central idea for this film occurred to me about 10 years ago when I was reading an article in Wired magazine about telecommuting. The article was making all of these fantastic predictions that, in the future, there won't be any traffic jams anymore, and no one will have to ride the subway, because everyone will work from home. Well, I come from a family that's mostly immigrant, a family in which my cousins are still arriving and working in landscaping and construction. I tried to put them into this fantasy of working from home — when their home is Peru, 3000 miles away, and their work is construction.

And so I came up with this idea of the telecommuting immigrant, where in the future the borders are sealed, workers stay in the South, and they connect themselves to a network through which they control machines that perform their labor in the North.

The end result is an American economy that receives the labor of these workers but doesn't ever have to care for them, and doesn't have to fear that their children will be born here, and doesn't ever have to let them vote.

Science Fiction From Below
Mark Engler | May 13, 2009

Friday, 16 October 2009

Back to the future: Moon for sale

Here I update a post from 07.

The idea of a U.S. base on the Moon is nothing new. In a secret study called “A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Outpost” published on June 9, 1959, the military maintained that, “The lunar outpost is required to develop and protect potential United States interests on the Moon; to develop techniques in Moon-based surveillance of the Earth and space; in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the Moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the Moon…Any military operations on the Moon will be difficult to counter by the enemy because of the difficulty of his reaching the Moon, if our forces are already present and have means of countering a landing or of neutralizing any hostile forces that have landed.”

In 1999, John Young, former Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle astronaut, said that the Moon would also be useful for “planetary defense.”

Recognizing that “control” of the Moon could cause enormous conflict over time, the United Nations created the Moon Treaty in 1979. Much of the Moon Treaty reiterates earlier and internationally-accepted “space law,” particularly the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Article 11 of the treaty maintains, “The Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind.” The treaty also prohibits national appropriation, adding the words “by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” In other words, no military bases and no claims of ownership are allowed. The U.S. never signed the Moon Treaty, and in fact it was only ratified by nine nations.

A 1989 study commissioned by Congress, called "Military Space Forces: The Next 50 Years" reports that whoever holds the Moon militarily will control the "earth-Moon gravity well" and thus will essentially control the front gate to the Moon.

Former Nazi Major General Walter Dornberger, who was in charge of the entireV-1 and V-2 missile operation for Hitler’s Germany, testified before the U.S. Congress in 1958 that America's top space priority ought to be to "conquer, occupy, keep, and utilize space between the Earth and the Moon." (Dornberger, along with 1,500 other top Nazi scientists, was smuggled into the U.S. under Operation Paperclip after WW II. He became Vice-President at Bell Aerospace in New York.)

The Moon has one resource that is getting everyone’s attention. It is helium-3, and, say many space enthusiasts, could be used for fusion power back here on Earth. In a 1995 New York Times op-ed, science writer Lawrence Joseph asks the question: “Will the Moon become the Persian Gulf of the 21st Century?” Joseph maintains that the most important technological question of our time will be “which nation will control nuclear fusion?” He ends his piece by saying, “If we ignore the potential of this remarkable fuel, the nation could slip behind the race for control of the global economy, and our destiny beyond.”

One person who is not ignoring helium-3 on the Moon is former astronaut and engineer Harrison Schmitt who has created a corporation to mine the Moon for it. Schmitt, though, is concerned about obstacles to his grand plans. In a 1998 piece for the industry newspaper Space News called “The Moon Treaty: Not a Wise Idea” he writes, “The strong prohibition on ownership of ‘natural resources’ also causes worry….The mandate of an international regime would complicate private commercial efforts…. The Moon Treaty is not needed to further the development and use of lunar resources for the benefit of humankind...including the extraction of lunar helium-3 for terrestrial fusion power.”

Some scientists predict that one metric ton of helium-3 could be worth over $3 billion. Researchers at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory have estimated that some one million tons of helium-3 could be obtained from the top layer of the Moon.

If all this turns out to be true and scientifically possible, imagine the gold rush to the Moon and the conflict that could follow in years to come. Who would police the Moon, especially when countries like the U.S. refuse to sign the Moon Treaty that restricts “ownership claims”?

The U.S. Space Command's plan, Vision for 2020, says, "Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments — both military and economic. During the rise of sea commerce, nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests....Likewise, space forces will emerge to protect military and commercial national interests and investment in the space medium due to their increasing importance."

I have always been convinced that, by creating offensive space weapons systems, one of the major jobs of the Space Command would be to control who can get on and off planet Earth, thus controlling the “shipping lanes” to the Moon and beyond.

There has long been a military connection to NASA’s Moon missions. In early 1994, NASA launched the Deep Space Program Science Experiment, the first of a series of Clementine technology demonstrations jointly sponsored with the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). The Pentagon announced that data acquired by the spacecraft indicated that there is ice in the bottom of a crater on the Moon, located on the Moon’s south pole — the same venue NASA now envisions as the site for the 2024 permanent base. According to a Pentagon website, “The principal objective of the lunar observatory mission though was to space qualify lightweight sensors and component technologies for the next generation of Department of Defense spacecraft [Star Wars]. The mission used the Moon, a near-Earth asteroid, and the spacecraft’s Interstage Adapter (ISA) as targets to demonstrate sensor performance. As a secondary mission, Clementine returns valuable data of interest to the international civilian scientific sector.”

In the end, the NASA plan to establish permanent bases on the Moon will help the military “control and dominate” access on and off our planet Earth and determine who will extract valuable resources from the Moon in the years ahead.

The taxpayers will be asked to pay the enormously expensive “research and development” costs of this program that in the end will profit the aerospace industry and those corporation like Bechtel that intend to build the bases and extract resources on the Moon.

NASA is not really looking for the “origins of life,” as it tells school children today. Instead, it is laying the groundwork for a new gold rush that will drain our national treasury and enrich the big corporations that now control our government. It is beyond time for the American people to wake up to the shell game underway.

Bruce K. Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space

And thanks to Jeerathida for forwarding this image to me. I consider it a representation of the true face of horror if the back to the future military scenario described in this post is ever fully realised. The piece is appropriately very Giger-esque I think: