node created 2019/09/29
In capitalist society individuals are controlled by a pitiless law usually beyond their comprehension. The alienated human specimen is tied to society as a whole by an invisible umbilical cord: the law of value. This law acts upon all aspects of one's life, shaping its course and destiny. The laws of capitalism, which are blind and are invisible to ordinary people, act upon the individual without he or she being aware of it. One sees only the vastness of a seemingly infinite horizon ahead. That is how it is painted by capitalist propagandists who purport to draw a lesson from the example of Rockefeller — whether or not it is true — about the possibilities of individual success. The amount of poverty and suffering required for a Rockefeller to emerge, and the amount of depravity entailed in the accumulation of a fortune of such magnitude, are left out of the picture, and it is not always possible for the popular forces to expose this clearly. (A discussion of how the workers in the imperialist countries gradually lose the spirit of working-class internationalism due to a certain degree of complicity in the exploitation of the dependent countries, and how this at the same time weakens the combativity of the masses in the imperialist countries, would be appropriate here, but that is a theme that goes beyond the scope of these notes.)

In any case, the road to success is portrayed as beset with perils — perils that, it would seem, an individual with the proper qualities can overcome to attain the goal. The reward is seen in the distance; the way is lonely. Furthermore, it is a contest among wolves. One can win only at the cost of the failure of others.
The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.
State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies; and this lie slips from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."
"Thus Spoke Zarathustra"
These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing. He must learn to listen to his own inner voice. He must learn to say "No!"

Finally, it is the act itself that matters. When instrumental reason is the sole guide to action, the acts it justifies are robbed of their inherent meanings and thus exist in an ethical vacuum. I recently heard an officer of a great university publicly defend an important policy decision he had made, one that many of the university's students and faculty opposed on moral grounds, with the words: "We could have taken a moral stand, but what good would that have done?" But the moral good of a moral act inheres in the act itself. That is why an act can itself ennoble or corrupt the person who performs it. The victory of instrumental reason in our time has brought about the virtual disappearance of this insight and thus perforce the delegitimation of the very idea of nobility.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" (1976)
The emergence of the stranger and his externalization stands in direct relationship to the degree of impairment of that which is most personal - namely, a person's identity. But how can inner development take place in children if everything that makes up their individuality is rejected and made foreign? Then identity is reduced to adaptation to those external circumstances that insure a child's psychic survival. Children do everything to fulfil their parents' expectations, and the way they do this is to identify with their parents, but then the child's individuality is replaced by a foreign element. That is why the 18th Century English poet Edward Young wrote: "We are born as originals, die as copies".

An identity that develops in this manner is not oriented to its own needs but to the will of an authority.

[..]

I want to emphasize that the "stranger" in us is bred by a culture that won't accept the spontaneous expression of children's aliveness and vitality. This aspect of a culture gives rise to violent behavior and is responsible for the development of deficient identities. Personalities formed by the processes producing the inner stranger were never able to develop trust as an underlying component of their personality. Instead, they take on a "false identity" that makes them idealize repressive authorities in the hope that they will be rescued by the very people who are their tormentors.

Under such circumstances there cannot be an interior life that is able to protect us from that "abstract nakedness" of being human which Hannah Arendt (1973) spoke of. This nakedness is exposed when a true identity is prevented from developing and its place is taken by a false identity based on outer achievement, an identity that falls apart when the social context makes such achievement impossible.

The stranger is the real victim within us. The self has been distorted through being obedient, which makes it almost impossible to recognize what is really happening. Obedience, one could say, serves to subordinate oneself to the oppressor but also to disguise his deeds. In other words, obedience reinforces power, making it impossible to direct one's bottled-up rage against those who are responsible for it. But the rage is there as is the hatred for the victim in us, who must be rejected as foreign in order to accommodate those in power.

[..]

If a child finds no response in this "dance of the eyes," it is just as fear-inspiring as a physical threat. Murder is therefore not only a physical act but a psychic one as well.

When children are exposed to this kind of inner terror they must do everything possible to survive. This leads to what Ferenczi (1984) described in 1932 as the transformation of anxiety and terror into a feeling of security. This process originates in a social environment that allows adults to exploit children's dependence in order to advance their own feeling of self-worth and leads children to quickly reject their own feelings and perceptions for the sake of preserving their vitally essential bond with the care-giving adult. A child does this by submitting totally to the adult's expectations. Ferenczi puts it as follows:

"Children feel physically and morally helpless; their personality is not sufficiently consolidated for them to be able to protest even in their thoughts. The adult's overwhelming power and authority makes them mute, often robbing them of their senses. Yet their fear, when it reaches a peak of intensity, automatically forces them to submit to the will of the aggressor, to intuit and obey his every wish, to forget themselves entirely, to identify totally with the aggressor."

Such identification not only causes victims to ally themselves with their victimizers but to idealize them as well. In the eyes of the victim the victimizer appears to be a source of security. At the same time the victim begins to feel his or her pain as weakness because the victimizer forbids these feelings. If he were to become aware of his victim's pain, he would feel guilty. That is something the victimizer must avoid by inflicting further violence. Yet the pain and resulting rage persist in the victim, only this time the rage is turned against the self, which is now experienced as foreign. It is part of the normal process of adaptation to direct this rage against the external stranger. The ubiquity of this phenomenon determines the course of human history.

[..]

And so one passes on one's own victimization through the act of punishing the stranger out there, the one identified as being everything one has learned to hate in oneself. The result is what we characterize as normal behavior in our culture: the life-long attempt to gain control over the painful part of our nature - the part of us that we have lost and that keeps on making us feel impotent and helpless - by making victims of others in order to punish them for the pain we are not permitted to feel and for the victim in us that we are not allowed to be.
The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object.
Tagsalienation
The rise of the natural sciences is credited with a demonstrable, ever-quickening increase in human knowledge and power; shortly before the modern age European mankind knew less than Archimedes in the third century B.C., while the first fifty years of our century have witnessed more important discoveries than all the centuries of recorded history together. Yet the same phenomenon is blamed with equal right for the hardly less demonstrable increase in human despair or the specifically modern nihilism which has spread to ever larger sections of the population, their most significant aspect perhaps being that they no longer spare the scientists themselves, whose well-founded optimism could still, in the nineteenth century, stand up against the equally justifiable pessimism of thinkers and poets. The modern astrophysical world view, which began with Galileo, and its challenge to the adequacy of the senses to reveal reality, have left us a universe of whose qualities we know no more than the way they affect our measuring instruments, and — in the words of Eddington — "the former have as much resemblance to the latter as a telephone number has to a subscriber." Instead of objective qualities, in other words, we find instruments, and instead of nature or the universe — in the words of Heisenberg — man encounters only himself.

[The German physicist Werner Heisenberg has expressed this thought in a number of recent publications. For instance: "Wenn man versucht, von der Situation in der modernen Naturwissenschaft ausgehend, sich zu den in Bewegung geratenen Fundamenten vorzutasten, so hat man den Eindruck, ... dass zum erstenmal im Laufe der Geschichte der Mensch auf dieser Erde nur noch sich selbst gegenübersteht ... , daß wir gewissermassen immer nur uns selbst begegnen" (Das Naturbild der heutigen Pkysik [1955], pp. 17-18). Heisenberg's point is that the observed object has no existence independent of the observing subject: "Durch die Art der Beobachtung wird entschieden, welche Züge der Natur bestimmt werden und welche wir durch unsere Beobachtungen verwischen" (Wandlungen in den Grundlagen der Naturwissenschaft [1949], p. 67).]
"Vita Activa"
Our main way of relating ourselves to others is like things relate themselves to things on the market. We want to exchange our own personality, or as one says sometimes, our "personality package", for something. Now, this is not so true for the manual workers. The manual worker does not have to sell his personality. He doesn't have to sell his smile. But what you might call the "symbolpushers" , that is to say, all the people who deal with figures, with paper, with men, who manipulate - to use a better, or nicer, word - manipulate men and signs and words, all those today have not only to sell their service but in the bargain they're to sell their personality, more or less. There are exceptions.
Most of us are unable to sort out reality — we can't distinguish between a thing and a symbol for that thing. This springs from several causes. One cause is that we are isolated from the natural world, where the distinction between a thing and a symbol is more obvious. Another cause is our educational system, which simply reflects the intellectual laziness of the society in which it is embedded. A third cause is resistance on the part of vested interests — if we could think creatively, we would be difficult to govern, and advertisers would have to appeal to reason instead of emotion.
We will arrive at a moment of sufficient self-alienation where we can contemplate our own destruction [as a species] as in a static spectacle.
The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, "normal" knowledge of murder and lies. Eichmann's great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for "language rules."
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
I haven't got a speech. I didn't plan words. I didn't even try to I just knew I had to get here, to stand here, and I wanted you to listen.

To really listen, not just pull a face like you're listening, like you do the rest of the time. A face that you're feeling instead of processing.

You pull a face, and poke it towards the stage, and we lah-di-dah, we sing and dance and tumble around. And all you see up here, it's not people, you don't see people up here, it's all fodder. And the faker the fodder, the more you love it, because fake fodder's the only thing that works any more. It's all that we can stomach.

Actually, not quite all. Real pain, real viciousness, that, we can take. Yeah, stick a fat man up a pole. We laugh ourselves feral, because we've earned the right, we've done cell time and he's slacking, the scum, so ha-ha-ha at him!

Because we're so out of our minds with desperation, we don't know any better. All we know is fake fodder and buying shit. That's how we speak to each other, how we express ourselves, is buying shit.

What, I have a dream? The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, it doesn't exist! It's not even there! We buy shit that's not even there.

Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn't.

Yeah? It'd break us. We're too numb for it. I might as well choke. It's only so much wonder we can bear.

When you find any wonder whatsoever, you dole it out in meagre portions. Only then until it's augmented, packaged, and pumped through 10,000 preassigned filters till it's nothing more than a meaningless series of lights, while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what? All tiny cells and tiny screens and bigger cells and bigger screens and fuck you!

Fuck you, that's what it boils down to. Fuck you for sitting there and slowly making things worse. Fuck you and your spotlight and your sanctimonious faces.

Fuck you all for thinking the one thing I came close to never meant anything. For oozing around it and crushing it into a bone, into a joke. One more ugly joke in a kingdom of millions.

Fuck you for happening. Fuck you for me, for us, for everyone.

Fuck you!
The Black Mirror
Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
When confronted with situations for which such routine procedures did not exist, he [Eichmann] was helpless, and his cliché-ridden language produced on the stand, as it had evidently done in his official life, a kind of macabre comedy. Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality, that is, against the claim on our thinking attention that all events and facts make by virtue of their existence.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race"-the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
It should be noted that no ethically-trained software engineer would ever consent to write a DestroyBaghdad procedure. Basic professional ethics would instead require him to write a DestroyCity procedure, to which Baghdad could be given as a parameter.
[..]

The horseman serves the horse,
The neatherd serves the neat,
The merchant serves the purse, 
The eater serves his meat;
'T is the day of the chattel,
Web to weave, and corn to grind;
Things are in the saddle,
And ride mankind.

There are two laws discrete,
Not reconciled,--
Law for man, and law for thing;
The last builds town and fleet,
But it runs wild,
And doth the man unking.
'T is fit the forest fall,
The steep be graded,
The mountain tunnelled,
The sand shaded,
The orchard planted,
The glebe tilled,
The prairie granted,
The steamer built.

Let man serve law for man;
Live for friendship, live for love,
For truth's and harmony's behoof;
The state may follow how it can,
As Olympus follows Jove.

[..]
"Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing"
Software will absorb new humans as just another object, and map them into some form of homelessness, because that's the most efficient use of us.

Personally I'd feel happier if I grew up on a community surrounded by people that I knew and cared for, instead of being routed around like a tinder hookup, endlessly bidding for cheaper container storage.

I think that's something worth sacrificing a little bit of algorithmic efficiency for.
It is no accident that modern education doesn't teach the distinction between symbol and thing — if it did, education as we know it would fall apart. After that, after education reshaped itself to provide actual knowledge instead of the symbolic representation of knowledge, the society around us would be transformed.

But in the meantime, most "educated" people cannot tell the difference between a fact and an idea, the most common confusion of symbol and thing. Most believe if they collect enough facts, this will compensate for their inability to grasp the ideas behind those facts.
Some people spend their lives interested only in themselves. Almost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real people, you know. It’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans.
Tagsalienation