Scattered thoughts on what I believe I believe and who I who believe I learned it from.
I believe, first and foremost, that it is a mistake to hold firm beliefs. As Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson wrote, I am limited in my capacity to conceive of the reality in which I am immersed by my nervous system, my finite ability to model based on a finite and highly contextual, arbitrary even, set of data. I am also limited, for the same reasons, in any attempt to transcend limitations. In other words, the way in which I acknowledge and respond to contingencies is itself contingent.
The way in which I form knowledge and the way in which I categorise the contents of the world (my epistemology and my ontology) are also, according to Michel Foucault, contingent, upon place and time, biology and psychology.
Or, as Buckminster Fuller once said, Scenario Universe is non-simultaneously apprehended.
I do not believe that these intrinsic limitations disempower me; after all, this would only be the case if my agenda was the apprehension of complete, objective truth (itself, like meaning, an abstract human concept based on dated models of subjectivity and agency). I am not beholden to technophilia, technophobia, teleology, eschatology, singularities or transcendental objects at the end of time.
Instead, I see myself and the world not as constrained, but as a composition of various tendencies, ever-morphing phase spaces, concrescences of heterogeneous flows and processes. Knots, Laingian ones even. Striations. Or, as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (or Manuel de Landa, the most gifted of their interpreters) would say, irreducible multiplicities. By deterrritorialising, by creating myself, like Artaud, a Body without Organs, a smooth space, I can experience this. It is in the relationship between all the flows and processes of which I am comprised (the I itself being transient, amorphous, momentary) that a kind of finite, contextually bound truth emerges – a truth of infinite creative possibility. A chaos magick.
If indeed the ‘I’ which is the extension of all these intensive flows and processes into the actual can reach a bifurcation point, trace a line of flight, dissolve, then the intensive can be seen; the intensive palpates the abstract, the ontological threshold itself, always in reciprocal presupposition with the intensive and actual. As I create myself, so I create the domain of possibilities with which I create myself. As Douglas Hofstadter would say, I am/is a strange loop.
Psychedelics remind me that I am inside the game and outside it; whether I can deconstruct the fact of the contingencies brought to bear in that which I refer to as I, I am still, in large part, a historically-bound agent, a sentient being in a particular place at a particular time, even though, as Jacques Derrida says, all these definitions rupture, leak, blur into each other; even if all there is, in a definitional sense, is the intertextual, the endless play of difference and deference between signifiers without any ground.
Living like this is, in a sense, the application of a different kind of ethics. Any conceivable post-structuralist ethics is, at least partly, the recognition of the ontological primacy of difference. Ethical considerations cannot thus be limited to reductionist categories, strictly delineated taxonomies. Rights, the ends of ethics, can surely only be afforded via appeal to the most basic, non-essentialist criteria; a proclivity for life, preference of sentience over non-sentience. There is no qualitative divide between human and non-human animal any more than there is a particular point on the colour spectrum at which white becomes black or, as Genesis P-Orridge asserts, a juncture at which male becomes female – not biologically of course, not yet anyway, but by way of self determination. A thousand tiny genders.
Nor can this ethics be limited to either abstract categorical notions of species-being, or to things apprehended in isolation. James Lovelock and Rupert Sheldrake’s single vibrant lifeforce, Gaia, is, while trite at times, not far from the actual state of things described by complex systems theory. When we romanticise the object of our ethics, this old growth forest, that tribe, our fiscal growth, we miss the interconnectedness of things. When we deny that an increase of a mere 1 part per 10 000 of CO2 in the atmosphere contributes to destabilisation of the climate, it’s because we’re not looking at the strange attractor mapped out by the interplay of the variables relevant in this context.
Of course, this is not how much of the world sees things. Reductionism, bounded rationality which doesn’t recognise its boundedness, simplistic linear models of human behaviour and a jilted value system based on an over-abstraction of arbitrary ends forms another system, draws another strange attractor where the microphone is always just a millimetre away from the point at which the iterative feedback loop between itself and the speaker will tear the cone but, alas, we cannot yet hear properly, our ears still ringing loud with the noise of naive, fixated chatter disguised as knowledge. We’re still stuck in transcendentalism when we should be immersed in immanence, univocity.
Like Blixa Bargeld said, ‘we who now see the problem, and who are aware of it, even we cannot yet make up our minds.’
So what to do? Do we engage the dominant abstract machines, the collective assemblages of enunciation, as mere micro-fascist components, by repeating and validating and further entrenching their means of operation, or do we instead construct, rhizomatically, networks of resistance, molecular revolutions, a nomadic war machine and a multitude against Empire?
Do we hold a placard or light the fuse? Do we join Greenpeace or do we join the Earth Liberation Front? Are we Platformists or CrimethIncers? Do people have the power to lead themselves in radically horizontalist, anarchist fashion, free of the baggage of both a bureaucratic, hierarchical state or, what amounts after all to the same thing, a libertarian capitalist society devoid of nuance and as flippantly disregardable as demonstrating that in every game of Monopoly there is but one winner? Are we brave enough to listen to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, or will we continue to conceive of revolutionary politics in terms of vanguards and tactical unity?
A Nietzschean ethics of the free. A Spinozean question of what a body is, of what a life is capable. An ELF direct action to set all this in motion.
We must act directly. By responding with only symbolic resistance, we are, as Noam Chomsky has noted, only serving that which we seek to resist by acting within a domain that the object of our resistance has defined as the grounds. Instead, we should be shifting the very grounds, increasing the range.
A plurality, therefore, of tactics and theories and to hell with correctness and moral certitude. A science of questions, not answers. Quaquaversal or centroclinal? Both.
We who now see the problem, and who are aware of it, we are beginning to make our minds.
“[1.] You will be organised, you will be an organism, you will articulate your body – otherwise you’re just depraved.
[2.] You will be signifier and signified, interpreter and interpreted – otherwise you are just a deviant.
[3.] You will be a subject, nailed down as one, a subject of the enunciation recoiled into a subject of the statement – otherwise you are just a tramp.”
- Deleuze and Guattari – A Thousand Plateaus, 1987