#TheoryThursday: We are Living in a Post-Theory Dystopia of Speed and Isolation
Posted 8 years ago on July 29, 2014, 4:46 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: Theory Thursday, Simon Critchley, Occupy Reboot
“When we asked the revolutionary philosopher Simon Critchley to help us understand the contemporary moment from a new perspective, he replied with a richly conceived work of political satire. We read it once and laughed. Then we read it again and again—each time finding another way of understanding the story.
Occupy Philosopher, Simon Critchley, is the celebrated author of numerous books including the classic of anarchism, Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. He is a Professor of Philosophy at The New School and the Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien (EGS) in Switzerland. Critchley’s contribution to Occupy’s Reboot is a meditation on dynamic social change and we are honored to share it with you today.” - Micah White
An evening, sometime in the near future…
26 Kadashevskaya nab. 115035 Moscow
January 1st, 2019
I guess we could all have seen it coming a few years back. Things really started to get worse around the end of 2013 and then dragged on into the long, cold winter months. That whole business with that guy, what was his name? Mountain in Wales. Snowden. That’s it. He went underground for a while and then emerged as the CEO of Bozhe Moi! (My God!): the amazing Russian search engine that overtook Google early in 2017. Totally wiped them out. I find it reassuringly old world and Le Carré-like to have the FSB watching all of us rather than the NSA.
Shortly after the President’s death, events moved fast. Well, suspicions were raised when they declared it accidental. Everyone knew it was suicide. He lost face (and faith) after that awful video circulated. You all know the one I mean. That was just after the attempted toppling of 1 WTC. Why did they build that thing? It looked like a huge robot schlong. It was lucky that only a couple of hundred people died in the rogue drone strike, but the building’s been empty - cursed - since then, apart from a shelter for the homeless on the ground floors. The city began to go bankrupt after whatshisname, De Blasio, was unable to raise taxes to pay for all the damage from the great storm of summer 2016. That was when the BBB movement (“Bring Back Bloomberg”) really got momentum. It turned out that people missed his bad Spanish at those press conferences. He’s been in power for a year now, even bringing back everyone’s pal, Ray Kelly. It’s just like old times.
Biden governed heroically, if ineffectively, until they called an early election due to the state of emergency. But he was never going to beat Chris Christie, particularly after Hillary had to pull out of the primaries because of that scandal with Anthony Weiner’s ex-wife. God that guy really embraced new technology. I think he’s still serving time. Chris Christie was a surprisingly popular president. It was like being governed by Tony Soprano. People love a benevolent despot. But I guess we weren’t surprised when the heart attack happened. He was inspecting the Acela line to Boston after it had been destroyed by floodwaters.
President Rubio has been in power for over a year now. He looks the very picture of health, glowing like the self-satisfied Miami sun when he speaks. Obamacare has been fully repealed, the rather minimal tax increases on the rich have been reversed, the federal budget has been slashed (his “War on Debt” campaign), and Rubio plans to implement the NRA’s proposal to arm all schoolkids. That’s equality. Everyone gets a gun. People seem to feel safer that way. Or they just stopped caring after that horrific school shooting in Greenport: the sixth one last year. I mean, who’s counting, right?
The truth is that national politics no longer seems to matter. Neither does the state. Cosmos is the new 1% international political force, set up by Jamie Dimon and other senior business figures from across the world. Its radical plan is to abandon all states and national borders and establish an independent league of mega-cities (initially New York, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Mumbai, Moscow, but many others want to join) with its own police force and border agents. They’ve already begun to issue passports. It comes free when you sign up for their premium credit card. I have one here in my wallet. It has their catchy motto engraved on the titanium: “The world is ours. Make it yours”. They were initially called “The League of Rootless Cosmopolitans”. But they shortened their name: like the magazine, like the drink. The only political imperative was how to preserve the patina of liberalism while maintaining existing levels of inequality. Unsurprisingly, this is not that hard. It turns out that this is what we had anyway. A large proportion of the funding base for the Democratic Party has evaporated. Bozhe Moi! is also a big funder of the Cosmos party. Secession from their various states is expected to begin this year.
After the whole Google glasses debacle and the copycat suicides where people filmed their own deaths while wearing them, huge amounts of money were spent on lawsuits and the program was abandoned. Capital was poured into the development of what was called “inner space research.” There were various plans to insert probes under the skin at the wrist in order to internalize search functions with fingertip control. They also tried to develop an ultra-gossamer type mask where computer and skin surface would meet and merge. They called it “2 Skin”. It also failed. As did the plan to insert implants in the retina. The stroke of genius at Bozhe Moi! was realizing that the search engine and the whole apparatus could be run from a customized pair of headphones. People really like headphones. It turns out that there is still a huge difference between what you are prepared to stick in your eyes and your ears. I’m wearing mine right now to talk to you. The translate function means that everyone can speak any language they wish, which is what I do here in Moscow. Rosetta Stone is already a distant memory.
Of course, we knew that the rise of Bozhe Moi! was a soft authoritarian takeover. Old-fashioned leftists would proclaim that the promised means of our emancipation (the internet circa 1996. Remember that?) had merely shackled us more tightly in virtual servitude. Boring! I mean we read Foucault too when it still mattered. But the truth was that people didn’t really care about their privacy. Not really. Not even the Germans.
Wars came and went in the Middle East, huge populations were displaced and innocent civilians were killed. Business as usual. The pieces moved slightly on the global chessboard and then moved again. We stopped caring, particularly after the big broadcast networks began to fold – CNN was first. We knew less and less about world, particularly after all those attacks on BBC journalists. But life was just fine here. There is still no two-state or one-state solution in Israel and settlements are still being built. After the attacks on Iran following their nuclear tests, the Ayatollahs even took out a new fatwa on Salman Rushdie and one on Bono too, after he was involved in that hit musical about the Iranian Revolution. But I think they both still go to parties.
I guess the weirdest changes have been around sex. The omnipresence of the highest quality 3D pornography, combined with “sensorium” patches that went on sale in 2015, effectively killed it off. Together with the first cases of a fatal testicular cancer caused by a variant of the HPV virus that was said to be in 90% of the sexually active young male population. That got their attention.
This led to two trends. A sudden vogue, that summer, for reckless, public sex: in buses, parks, sidewalks, subways, everywhere. It became a kind of display of political indifference or even resistance among the poor, but it was picked up and imitated by a lot of college kids. They call themselves the “League of Lovers” or LOL as way of mocking the Cosmos. There continue to be many arrests and an African-American couple was shot last weekend for refusing to stop making love in Prospect Park. Not so much “Stop and Frisk” as “Stopping Friskiness.”
The other trend – less numerous, but much more influential - was the Cenobite movement, where people would pay significant amounts of money to live together but in such a way that they could remain apart and not constitute any kind of threat to each other. The first one was founded outside Warren, Vermont a few years back. But they have spread all across Vermont, New Hampshire and Upstate New York. After electing to withdraw from the world – what they call anachoreisis – each Cenobite is given an “anchorhold” where they can stay safe and warm with their devices and sleep. Any participation in public events is optional, but with the right use of a wonderful new anxiety medication called Atarax, cenobites are able to be together socially and even main eye contact without looking at their devices for up to two minutes. For fear of contagion, celibacy is the rule in all cenobite groups. This did not extend to masturbation, of course. That would have taken things too far.
People incapable of even this degree of social activity or who could not bear to be disconnected from their devices began to gather outside the Cenobite communities in more extreme group. They began to be called “Hamlet camps” or the “Inkies” after their customized black clothing, that was something between sports clothing and a Benedictine habit. The sign up fee is prohibitively high in order to pay for the private police force and guarantee exclusivity. But I hear that some of the “Inkies” are beginning to produce some really high-level electronic music.
New York City began to feel too much like Alexandria in the late fourth century and I decided to get out when the right job offer came through. I’ve been living in this hotel in Moscow for the last 6 months working for a contemporary art space funded by one of oligarchs behind the Cosmos. It’s alright. The Russians make a generic version of Atarax and I have a bodyguard and a driver. But I stay in the hotel most of the time as it’s too dangerous to go out. Oh, happy new year.
1 WTC - a huge robot schlong intuned with Berlusconi's remarks about the old WTCs, and Anthony Weiner. New York's delicatessen love affair is missing another sausage - An thony Bologna who squirted hot-pepper spray. Let us not hide the salami (baloney?).
The League of Rootless Cosmopolitans have responded here: http://cominsitu.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/moscow-january-1st-2019/
"But the truth was that people didn’t really care about their privacy. Not really. Not even the Germans. "
This looks familiar. Wasn't this already posted? It's deja vu' all over again.
Yes, this was posted before. We are all running on a gigantic hamster wheel just like what Israel and Hamas/Gaza are up to again but every time it is a bit different.
is it an example of Groundhog Day physics, or is it simply the wheel turning but the hamster is dead
Yes, it is Groundhog Day. The wheel continues to turn but the hamster fell off after a stroke due to exhaustion. In general, stroke victims are not dead.
Israel will immortalize the contract of Hamas elimination through constant homage towards the destruction of it
interesting to look forward
This text is so bland. Where is the imagination, the fantasy?
The imagination and the fantasy come from the interaction of this text with what you already have in your brain. This fact eluded me for a long long time because it was extremely puzzling to me how perfectly intelligent and rational (to me anyway) people could see exactly the same thing and come away with vastly different conclusions. Physics provides a simple analogous answer that they were using different frequency oscillators.
Sigmund Freud did have a reasonable approach but it was biting off way too much and far too ahead of the observational technologies.
Maybe it is time for you to read all kinds of utopian realities now or long in the future. Can they be done for the U.S. or the world? I was sometimes called a "New Ager" and frankly I don't mind the label at all if we get closer to a New Age. Avarice and technology ran us amok. Can transcending avarice restore us?
However, "junk" is a relative concept. Crude oil over which we fought wars was a pollutant to underground water sources. Imagine being present at the past drilling of a well to provide water in Saudia Arabia. Instead of water, this black goo gushed out. Yes, in one sense, it WAS junk but in another sense it was TREASURE. Just look at how it catapulted desert nomadic tribes into the wealthiest people in the modern world.
Another example is the U.S. It collected "junk" people from all around the world and created a great nation around the singularity of isolated self governance.
There ARE ridiculous spacey concepts that eventually turned out to have empirical foundation.
For that reason alone, I agree to take them in under quarantine as hypotheses. Most breakthrough ideas are considered as ridiculous, improbable, or have even been proven impossible in the established thinking. We do not ban poetry or fiction due to their being unreal and lies. We harbor them because they are beautiful and enjoyable. New Age stuff may be the opiod for some people.
According to your "New Agers claims they have the truth," I am no New Ager then because I do not claim that I have the truth. I reflect reality at best like a funny mirror, giving a representation of the truth, perhaps, but always a distorted one. My religion, if it can be said to be one, figuratively speaking, is that I want to see the sights beyond the next mountain pass, top the summits, eat the wild blueberries, wallow in the mosses, stare at the blue sky through golden leaves, and chase the fish in the sparkling mountain stream.
and so the US government comes to realize that it does not represent the people
Science has its limitations because its most spectacular advances are based on knowing everything about nothing. Knowing the "Theory of Everything" does not solve our societal problems.
I certainly agree with using empiricism from the outset but I am very aware of the limitations of our empirical capabilities. I know NOT enough to compute and explain the fragrance of a rose from first principles but I KNOW contentment as I breathe at it gently.
Many ideas are in a state of flux between fiction and reality so enjoy sniffing at the roses even though science has elucidated neither fragrance nor the sense of smell.