TRIUMPH OF THE IMAGE, CULTURE OF TERROR
January 26, 2011
Manipulating electricity the basic pulse of creation, information technology, to the extent that it is not now taken for granted as part of the environment is a direct extension of the industrial age and its Faustian spirit. This drive to uncover or dis-clothes the secrets of nature and infuse them into a machine has led to an age of ‘total disclosure’ and full body scans that bare the form and structure of humans who, stripped of genuine freedom and integrity must submit to deconstruction. Body scanners are cousins to the ability of the owners’ technicians to dis-cover and pinpoint (like a specimen pinned to a wall) computer users through their ISP or to manipulate their pricey technology to uncover and steal the trappings of their identity, the only clothing that matters to the State and its related financial systems. Identity now is thinly rooted in plastic cards embossed with numbers scanned by machines: if the pattern engraved in your plastic does not scan you are denied. You may walk from the store, still, but you may not conduct ‘business’ which is what living has become. And business is another face of diplomacy whose method is elegant and strategic lying, that is, manipulated images: war by other means.
Identity is regressing to the process expressed in its etymological root: the id or “thing” where life energy is joined and begins at conception. All the industries, clichés, policies and law that control or affect attitudes about gender or family, the act of joining, conception and birth are related to the computerized recording, inscription, managing and denial (or conferral) of identity. Note that the obverse or reflection of identity is idemptitas, the “identical,” clone or generic. Our era, the end of the Faustian machine age concerns the manipulation of identity and its displacement by generic (idem, “the same”) substitutes. This is the triumph of the image flaunted for decades on screens; this was the sneering genius of Warhol’s serial portraits of soup cans, starlets or Presidents; the triumph of ‘plausible personae’ that dazzle and distract the human in the guise of instructing or providing them with ‘information.’
Garbage in; garbage out, which is what the ‘sanitation workers’ at various levels of the apparatus want: pliable recyclable garbage that at some level of its awareness senses that it is garbage, “the man that is all used up,” unwanted, superfluous and toxic. Hence it deserves its fate which is the scientific ‘green’ form of atonement. This is analogous to the fusion of consciousness sought for the masses by theosophy, the group “at-one-ment” whose social form is “governmental control, the true form of correct synthesis.” This is the formation (root of information) of the generic, the deformation of humans into clones degraded to the point that “thought leaders,” the manipulators of information assert that “death is a cure”; the garbage must be recycled; not merely taken out and discarded, that is ‘wasteful’ or ‘sinful.’ It must be reformed and reused: recycled. Recycling requires careful management of information; it is expensive. In many respects it is profoundly wasteful and exorbitant but that is not the daily truth: the truth about the fate of the humans must not be disclosed. Let us, then, briefly draw the veil over the ideological and technical aspects of the “coordinators of personality,” the “mental healers” that dispense ‘news’ but whose true work is in-formation and control, using language to inscribe a code of control in the target population, aka, the masses. For brutalized nominal citizens, “death is a cure” because, among other reasons, since the State has spent what it extracted in “social security” taxes they cannot or will not be dispensed: security was a lie as it is as the ostensible goal of the war on terror. Even if the idolatry of how this happened is now dis-clothed, it is too late to change the results. “The New Idol,” the “coldest of all cold monsters” has used the extracted life for “discretionary spending,” its food, retaining most of it to feed itself. It’s will is the will-to-power, “’the ordering finger of god am I,’ thus roars the monster.”
Thus the therapeutic State can proclaim, through its heralds, that “death is a cure” because life, like BP gasoline is too expensive; that simply is rational economics, identity is superfluous: clones or identicals with I-pods are far more cost efficient and programmable, the information age deformation of education, a model of how liberal become fascist...
The investment of discoveries into inventions is power-knowledge that enables creation of machines, each one a “little cosmos” over which humans stand as gods. The origin of the Faustian impulse, the ‘bargain’ whose deficits we are in last stages of dying to pay off antedates the Renaissance or late middle Ages though that is when it passed a threshold and began to define Culture along with the Crusades, gothic architecture, Arthurian Romances, incipient State-building and other distinctive phenomenon. Among these are the organized vilification and slaughter of Jews, the original host invaded, possessed and displaced by the Roman Empire in its ossifying phase, absorbing it to create a new image ideal whose forms found discrete identity in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries and have been petrifying since Victorian times. An intellectual of that period termed it, “this strange disease of modern life.” The postmodern dominion of screen-images and body snatching information managers (and their target population of ‘informed” consumers) is the last stage of this Cultural process, the degradation of Culture into Civilization and the ‘world-city.” Empire is the “ultimate form of civilization” and the world Empire of diffused States directed by group-Caesars keen on the power-thrill of managing the machine is the governance of the era when identity is consumed by identicals, when the original and human is displaced by the image and clone. It is image-world managed by a distraction machine, an “age of world peace” whose endless wars “are more fearsome that State wars because they are formless”: wars of attrition, business and recycling.
The logic of this degradation of the human, of the displacement of life abundant by imagery, electrons configured to mock life is prefigured in the myths and literature of ancient Greece. It is a three-stage process, an aesthetic-based model for interpreting culture, at least in the West and the details of its trajectory from a vital if flawed organism into forms both disembodied and petrified. This last pairing, a seeming paradox is seen in the twin-emphases of our era on mindless, even savage musculature, the image of being ‘totally buffed’ and on depiction of all life-forms as images. This is natural for the end of the era Joachim of Flores termed the “epoch of the holy ghost,” the triumph of an image over both father and son just as in postmodern divorce courts that break the human.
The first stage of image-work is an idyll (from the same root as idle or idol) in which an individual or culture imagines (the root is “magic”) an ideal self. The second stage is apocalyptic because it is marked by the increasing separation of the image-ideal from its projecting source and the displacement of the source by the image or imagery. This drive of the will to see and identify with an idealized reflection or “semblance” of itself occurs in a “framework of transfiguration” and carries the allure of “infinite transfiguration,” the work fulfilled by our screen media: it culminates with virtual reality and “reality TV” displacing reality. But as seen in Greek tragedy, and as enacted in all spheres of our lives by government, law, education and media systems, the gods or, more accurately, god-beasts dominate and tear apart the human whose suffering is the primary subject of ancient tragedies. One may see a model of this process of displacement and theft of human identity by the demonic image in Coleridge’s poem, “Christabel” written in 1797 but withheld by him from publication till 1816. The dates span the “revolutionary decades” (and reaction) when Europe was passing from culture to civilization. Coleridge and his readers did not believe the gothic trappings of his tale but, derived from the period when the West asserted a distinct identity, they gave a thrill of genuine wonder, and terror, disappearing, first from England, as lamented by Wordsworth in “the World is too much with Us” (1810). Christabel, possessed and displaced by the demonic Geraldine whose identity is radically indefinite is a symbol of the terror in France, in the recession of “the Sea of Faith” and the triumph of processes of management, of finance over money and of applied science as the definers of norms of thought and behavior.
As the image splits from and displaces its host, as the idol (“progress” or the “Welfare State” or “democracy” upheld by a “free press” which once was largely uncontrolled or de-centralized) dominates the human and local, history and tradition yield to terror and grief, to mourning for what has been lost: identity of the individual, family and culture. This is the elegiac phase in which the West has been since, in England, the 1850s and is pervasive for a century. Beneath the glitter of dominant imagery, slogans, ideologies that have dwindled to tropes of ideology; beneath the processes and processing of information which displaces identity our works mainly are forms of grieving and bereavement. The obverse of progress is regression as the undertones and obverse of mediated images of happiness are anxiety, sorrow and despair. The current recession (“the Great Recession”) is a macro-social form of these feelings. They too, like the class that manages them is part of the logic of culture, one that having preferred idylls and idols becomes a culture of fictions in which “the lie becomes truth.”
An example of this process and of the late, petrified stage of imperial civilization in which we live is a recent film, “The Matrix,” – there are many that fit its format. The idea within its action is that the technology and will exist to transform (deform) a human being into a component in a computer program. The process is torturous and in our postmodern era the depiction of physical torment, so readily imaged, far exceeds the inner torments, extending over centuries in all areas of life. Through technology and a demonic, Faustian will, identity becomes a “residual energy trace” or some such term, the after-image of a comet’s tail, a group of electrons, de-personalized and plastinated though, for the needed entertainment-commercial value of the “film” the forms of human attraction and emotion are retained. It is a myth of the technical change of human into film in both senses: a “motion picture” and a thin veneer, a surface embedded in technical processes like the glossy images- idols in magazines whose content is increasingly mindless and generic, pap processed to “inform” clones and identicals: scum on a pond.
In closing, consider the prominence in this pattern and our lives of technology, a word not often used four or five decades ago. Its root is Greek tekne and Latin tex-textus, a woven fabric or pattern of images. In our decadent era, an era of “Civilization” and imperialism, it is apt that magike tekne or “image-weaving” has displaced the traditional socio-educational-ethical meanings of “text” which has become a verb meaning to send an electronic message that replaces voice with abbreviated, semi-literate chunks of language. Even if a “text” says, “I love you” and means it, the nature of the transformation and its processing of the human is the significant feature of what we have done to ourselves with a cultural preference for imagery to the living body.
Like many observers of culture, Spengler believed that the growth of the de-humanizing trans-national Empire and its wars would produce a new feudalism in which the masses clung to their anonymity and develop new forms of piety outside the Empire’s official and punitive lies. This is observable through the dazzling smog of image-world by which “no tamer has his animals under his power” more than the masters of the media. “Freedom of speech” and of “thought,” like thought itself has become “an appalling caricature” of what it was understood to be; now the “will to think” of the citizen-identical, the plastic persona “is only a willingness to think to order” conditioned by the talking points, slogans and clichés dispensed by the media to inform-plastinate the masses with “information.” This idol is celebrated by the “flies of the marketplace,” the servants of “the New Idol” as the liberty that must be spread throughout the world by diplomacy and business, two shadows that confront each other as images in the magic mirror of the information age, the “Witches’ Kitchen” of postmodern ‘life.’
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The spread of this “appalling caricature of freedom” proceeds through the volunteer armies, highly professional, mercenary or genuinely motivated in the “War on Terror” which, as the preceding suggests is a war of terror by the image on the human, by the slogan and cliché on literacy and thought, by magike tekne on genuine liberty whose root is a book: liber – libertas and the true generosity, not compelled extraction, bonded to it in the liberal disposition of liberal education in the liberal arts, now buried or deformed into conditioning and the lies of the “information age.” The word “liberal” that meant generous in mind, spirit and deed has shriveled to an abstraction and political term of art in its essence a deceit for “in this age of ours, the mass is ‘in form” as an electorate in exactly the same sense as it used to be “in form” as a collectivity of obedience – namely, as an object for a subject.” That is what the decay of liberalism has bequeathed to the elegiac stage of the West: “a collectivity of obedience” fronted by a hologram that despises what remains of the human for “wherever there still is a people it does not understand the State and hates it…” and the State knows it. But there is no escape from the triumph of the image and its information until it decays of its sterility and until people turn away from its seductions and dazzle.
Eugene Narrett’s recent book is Culture of Terror (www.authorhouse.com 2009)
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (NY 1962, 2006, Alan Helps
abridged English edition, translation Charles Francis Atkinson), 410-11,
Chapter 21, “The Machine”
2, Alice Bailey, “Seed Groups in the New Age,” July 1937, “The Work of the Seed Groups” January 1938 in Externalization of the Hierarchy (NY 1957; 2001), 31, 51
3, Ibid. 43
4, Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part I (NY 1954; 1978, Walter Kaufmann translation), 160-3; see also, “the Flies of the Marketplace” on ‘the media’ 163-8
5, Matthew Arnold, “The Scholar Gypsy” (1853), 164-205; cf. “Dover Beach” (1851), 21-8
6, Spengler op. cit. 24-40, 181-8 inter alia
7, Eugene Narrett, Culture of Terror (authorhouse.com 2009)
8, Spengler op. cit. 375-81
9, Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed (1962; Norton 1996)
10, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy & Other Writings (Cambridge University Press 1999, edited by Raymond Geuss & Ronald Speirs, translated by R. Speirs), 24-5, 45-7 inter alia
11, Orwell on the “Ministry of Newspeak” 1984; H.G. Wells parody of “the Sayer of the Law” and “the Regression of the Beast Folk” in the Island of Dr. Moreau
12, Spengler, op. cit. 391-402, “The Press” and “Politics & Economy” in chapters 19 & 20
13, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part I, chapter 6 through “Walpurgis Night”; in the “magic mirror” Faust stares enraptured at his image ideal or eidolon (“idol”), the Helen of Troy who for him is Gretchen
14, Spengler 391-2 passim
15, Nietzsche, “The New Idol” op. cit. 161
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