In this new Heart of Darkness, it's the Irony, the Irony! That good churchgoers from the countryside should consider Trump a decent and honest man. I ride out from our fair city which promises to elect a Socialist Democrat (female black!) as mayor, into the countryside where the Trumpers still prevail. Maybe the signage has been muted a tad, but the signs remain. I mean signs in the other sense.
These are people who live closer to nature, often in quite spectacular - by my sights as an apartment dweller - houses, often new. Of course I am mystified by the desire to have all the modern conveniences in the middle of nowhere. Even surrounded as I am by the rogue gunshot-like sounds of random privateered fireworks near where I live, I feel that much more at home in the polyglot miscegenated variegated city. One can walk here among people.
The RVs also proliferate away from the city, and somehow these are extensions of the political demand that we not be forced to abandon the promised rapture. It is also a technological rapture, where AK's and snow and water mobility without sails and Internets galore and connected screens are never absent. Comfort in the wilderness, where those who would agree with Bratton all must prefer tents, or simply not indulge In the countryside, nearly everyone owns an RV, and many if not most are far nicer than my apartment. (I still get 24 mpg towing my tiny home)
I said before that I don't know Agamben, but I do, it would seem, find his vocabulary familiar. From Bratton? No, I think I predate him. And so the serpent eats its tail and Agamben, the radical, is identical to those calling a state of exception against all rational governance.
Of course I still wear a mask, even vaccinated and immune from having contracted the contagion, now moving among an ever smaller minority. I am not an idiot. Though I still find Agamben and his ilk interestingly provocative; affording some truth that others would eschew. You know, like that film about GW (Bush) bringing down the Trade Towers, Small Change, was as if it were true in a way. Some people can't distinguish signal from noise. Some crave a clarity that never has been and never will be.
The thing that no-one wants to say is that this contagion is a direct result of our very success at overtaking the planet. There are too many of us, overcome now by our own effluent, living too closely together and travelling too often. By most measures, it was inevitable.
Our governments put our collective heads into the sand, affording more interminable warfare and almost no medical preparedness. Ever confident that only the homo zoe would ever be destroyed, in warfare or in contagion. Zoe's revenge, as objective embodied man becomes ever more dangerous in the red zones. Armed, flag waving, unmasked and dangerous.
The irony. The irony. It was never the sacred man, homo sacer. Bios. It was the intelligent man; the one Bratton celebrates, who believes that our science is only ameliorative in the end. That we will always resolve the worst of our lives into the better, no matter how bad it gets. Because understanding is progressive, I suppose.
One wonders how many straw dogs Bratton has fired up here. We hardly require a sensing layer to know already that we have the tech to distribute pretty good living to all on the planet. We just simply won't do it. Same reason we misuse "data extraction" for the private profit of a minuscule handful of people with one-name impact on the planet.
In one translation Chapter 5 of the Tao Te Ching begins with the lines "Heaven and Earth are impartial/ treating creatures like straw dogs".
Su Zhe's commentary on this verse explains: "Heaven and Earth are not partial. They do not kill living things out of cruelty or give them birth out of kindness. We do the same when we make straw dogs to use in sacrifices. We dress them up and put them on the altar, but not because we love them. And when the ceremony is over, we throw them into the street, but not because we hate them."
This is Bratton's whole book, really, isn't it? We have China as a reasonable facsimile of eradicating poverty. Over here we delegate government to invisible technocrats because we can't be bothered. Those we elect pretty much deflect us from government, no matter which side of the fake divide within neoliberalism they sit on. Capitalist and anti-China to their bones, eh Liz?
I still fail to see how more information will change the game if we won't change it until it's just patently too late. Or in other words, what if there really is something wrong with science as we practice it, or medicine as we practice it, or care as we administer it? Because we even delegate truth, which is what the crazies patently refuse to do. Can't there be a better coming together than this?
I am simply not so enamored of scientific rationalism as Bratton seems to be. I am with him up until he abdicates, in favor of what I'm not sure. We already have all the information that we could possibly need. The corruption was already within us before the virus hit. This was no epidemiological event. This was a metaphysical failure.
I am now reading Bratton's conclusion, and I have no hope nor certainly any expectation that I will understand what sort of a world it is that he wishes to live in. We seem to agree on most points, and yet I have no feel for how he thinks life may evolve such that I shall want to live it. He does sketch a negative trend, and how it will feel quite normal. I need a more positive vision at my conclusion.
Over the course of my life, once might say that there has been drastic change. And yet trains, planes and automobiles have hardly changed at all. I started along with the Interstate system. Death on the highways was but a street away. My uncle flew a boxcar and would storm our beach house when he could. I did travel overnight by train, and across the continent by plane.
I simply want not to want to do those things anymore. In this last brief phase of transformation, it seems that the cost-content of an automobile has shifted rapidly toward electronics. It is apparently so cheap to build the car I want that the automakers, almost out of desperation, need us to want all the automated processes. Built on the promise of better safety. Somewhat realized. But so much easier if we simply didn't drive so very much in such extravagant comfort.
I admit that I wish I could still buy a stick shift without a backup screen and without all those sensors. I confess also that I did enjoy getting on the Shanghai subway or walking the dark streets without any fear at all of violence. It was a kind of surveillance that provided that ease. Also some lack of obsession with privacy. But they sure did like their selfie sticks, which I had only ever seen there. Software to post themselves as racially ideal, and identical to everyone else, it also seemed.
The biggest change to flight is also in the screens and the shuttered windows even though the North Pole or the Rockies might be on view below. Still, the planes do crash when the pilot doesn't know how to mistrust the obviously malfunctioning sensors when there's ice on the wings. And the wife of a good friend, a MacArthur genius for exposing genocide, dies with all the rest.
We were shuttered during the pandemic, and then there was a chip shortage. We thought it wise to poke China. I was happy enough to stroll or ride my bike or even ski during the shuttering. Not really missing the anxiety of wanting to travel coast to coast or over to China.
I miss my little sailboat rowboat shuttered away in Canada. It is more than all I need to get me on the water. I practically had to beg my close friends to let go of Zoom and come to my apartment for dinner the other night. It was a lovely time had by all.
Last night - Independence Day - the private fireworks built in a kind of crescendo as though somehow orchestrated. They came from all over, and I was astounded that so many had bought so many. I now know why I felt comforted and not afraid when I heard the sparse popping leading up to this, when it came from so few that it did sound like gunfire. And you know the shootings have been going up. An almost nightly affair and not far from where I live.
Bratton mistakes Trump for wanting to be the sovereign - that embodied state. No, Trump is simply the avatar for the manly white world outside the city, and the sovereignty those men wish to preserve over their domains. Their wives, their kids, their motorized thrills. There are, as yet no screens in the side-by-side four wheel drives, or on the Harleys. "You're fired" is a nice thing to be able to say, as you coal the bicyclist from your outsized diesel pickup.
The cars and planes will mostly go because they must. The trains may stay, and some trolleys. We will want fewer goods less often, and they will be delivered by a packet switching system of autonomous vehicles which also move stored electricity about. They may have racks for boats and kayaks and bicycles and they may travel to the countryside for recharging and even wait for you to recharge yourself. And you will not wish to hover in a bloated drone because there is so little thrill to doing nothing.
And our tracks will be cheaply built by China, and designed to enter quietly into and through the wilds, and we will naturally dwindle in numbers since kids will no longer be to us what Trump is to them. A maxi me. Because there will be no fantasy about love's product, and so schools will be rebuilt of love and not of what Illich wanted to deschool, and he was right about that. And the children will be part of the economy again because they will be excited about it., and they will grow by it.
And no-one will ever again want their selfie self to endure forevermore. As though we could extend to infinity in any dimension. As though we could fill the cosmos, which was never empty in the first place.
And all that we require to accomplish all of this is to take back the shock and awe of the military industrial complex and never again delegate its control to the likes of Donald Rumsfeld. We will stop exploding anything or building buildings toward the sky. We will stop designing our own destruction, and our doctors will be our friends and they will touch us.
We will recognize the accidents of life and death and evolution as the expressions of cosmic love that they are, and we will nevermore work to replicate death and destruction in the name of such love because it was never about tooth and blood and claw within any species, really, except for ours.
It was never about survival of the fittest. It was always about putting a face on love and we should live it. We are plenty smart enough already.
The coming together will be when we realize that we all want the very same thing. I have never actually met a Trumper that I didn't like, though I've seen some from a distance. I sure do know the thrills of motorized joy, though I don't wish to expend my soul to afford them anymore. I even know a father's outrage. Even racist though I most certainly am, it seems obvious to me that the beauty is tending toward far darker skin than mine.
I will work for our new Socialist Democratic mayor. Things will improve. The economy will flatten. Life will prevail. What's not to celebrate? I want my guitar back too. From Canada where all our musicians seem to originate. Oh Beautiful!