Monday, October 19, 2020

Jill Lepore, Again

Did I write up here about These Truths? I guess there are some who complain about Lepore's writing. I'm not one of them. She connects various dots in such enlghtening ways, never failing to include the typically unincluded - the oppressed, the wives, the children, all to provide the proper societal context for the big pictures that she paints. 

This new book, If, Then, feels like it spun off from an important whorl in her previous book. I have yet to read the epilogue, wanting to capture some impressions here first. I may have to write an epilogue here as well. 

The overarching theme that I read regards masculine reality which transcends the only apparently shifting political winds. She sets out to answer, in other words, why, regardless of which brand of politics is ascending, the results are equally disastrous for the planet. In part, she pulls this off by revealing how recent our political polarization into "liberal" and "conservative" really is, and in particular how those labels descend from business-focused versus society focused tendencies. 

In the end a kind of stealth cybernetic surveillance regime has prevailed, and it doesn't really seem to matter if or that it came about by means of naive libertarian utopian freedom lovers - think Stuart Brand - or by corporate military-loving reactionaries - think Newt Gingrich. In between are such fascinating chameleons as Ithiel da Sola Pool, whose predictions survive even as Lepore reduces him to the same scale as most (male) historians have reduced women. 

Lepore belittles academics who presume to be at the forefront of some megatrend, but who are more likely riding their egos, or worse, some sort of megalomania. To me, she does this diffidently, not claiming for her histories any more authority than you, the reader, can find in them yourself.

There is an oppressive weightiness by the time of her conclusion. That no matter what we do, these impersonal forces will prevail. There may be a hidden solution in that observation, though, if we take the weight of  'impersonal' and move it jiu-jitsu like in the direction of depersonal, which is the opposite of what is still supposed about what is wrong with surveillance capitalism; that it reduces each of us to an isolated bubble in a manipulated landscape of wealth pumping off our innocence.

Depersonal might be what happens when the performative emotions of Facebook turn your stomach. When you realize the imperatives that are being shoved down your throat by the norms of Stuart Brand's Brave New Global Commune. You then might remove yourself from the fray. You might realize that your personality cannot be an Instagram Branding. You might realize that there is nothing dehumanizing about sacrificing your Platonic Christianity descended soul for a wilder sort of animalistic humanism, which foregrounds love in place of Goddist anger at those who disagree with you.

I don't doubt that there is nothing original about me. I do doubt that I should ever deserve credit for invention or creation. I am far too much a apart of the world around me, and especially of linguistic conventions for thinking for being for self-actualization, whatever that is. 

Technology, as are all tools, is endlessly amusing and interesting and can certainly enrich whatever world it is that we occupy. Agency on the micro-level of driving a car, riding a bike, avoiding danger, walking, is certainly very real. Agency on the level of subjecting others to one's world can only be transgression. 

Capitalism of the sort we practice and worship will end because the alternative is that we will. End. Those affiliated terms, like merit and worth will seem quaint. Immortality will be gauged by reach of love across the cosmos in whatever moment you may choose to measure. 

It is strange that there is nothing beyond Marxism to mark the transformation that we are undergoing because we must undergo it. I suppose that's because Marxism and Capitalism describe the same world. That world is not my world. Neither point toward any end that I want. I want no end at all. Love eternal, and no-one credentialed is allowed to mention that.

All those things now delivered so frantically by various Amazonian Drones interest me only if they can repair something I depend on. There is nothing attractive in consumption, in fashion, in style. The value of what I purchase - what I grasp - is wholly practical and not founded upon my self-image. My words also are not wrought to boost my image or my stature.

These are my aspirations. I try to remove myself from the enforced paranoid terror of privacy's loss, because I am hardly special. I will join the wash of the human flood when any Agent Orange might be elected. That much corruption of the body politic can never stand. Will never stand. And the agencies will be defunded in favor of universal education and healthcare and shared agency of a more local sort. 

Local agency embedded in a new philosophical vision for what it means to be human on the planet, in service to our selfish genes (because there is no choice) and subject to our Whole Mother Earth, just as I am subject to the house my offspring feel that they own. You cannot own what you don't comprehend. Purchase is nothing without the proper will; the proper handle.

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