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What I'm reading: Ernst Jünger

I've been exploring the work of Ernst Jünger, which I've never really read until now. The most cursory searching confirms a high likelihood of this man entering the Other Life pantheon. Consider the following from Eumeswil:

When society involves the anarch in a conflict which in which he does not participate inwardly, it challenges him to launch an opposition. He will try to turn the lever with which society moves him. Society is then at his disposal, say, as a stage for grand spectacles that are devised for him. Everything changes; the fetter becomes fascinating, danger an adventure, a suspenseful task.

I found a feature-length documentary about Jünger's time in Paris, called One Man's War (La Guerre d'un Seul Homme), which had his approval:

Jünger himself knew of this film, as a short passage from The Details of Time: Conversations with Ernst Jünger reveals. In those conversations with Julian Hervier, he only indicates that he had given the director Cozarinsky permission to make the film and in retrospect had no reason to regret the decision. Indeed - it is well done and provides excellent context for Jünger's difficult and yet enriching experience in occupied Paris.

ernst-juenger.org

I can't vouch for the film but I have added it to my queue, and will watch it soon. Perhaps you will watch it, too.

On my coming to Jünger, hat tip to Curtis, from whom I occasionally receive short missives in the reactionary genre of unsolicited advice — with gratitude, of course. I promise I'll eventually get to the other authors on your list, sir, but this one seems nearest my current tastes. Vielen Dank.

Terre Thaemlitz on why you should just stop

Woker Nexus in my Discord server recently introduced me to the work of Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles. (If Woker Nexus sounds familiar, Woker is one of the more active participants in my Youtube livestreams). After a few minutes of browsing, I immediately understood the recommendation. Thaemlitz is a militantly anti-institutional artist and thinker, issuing from broadly left-wing traditions of radical counterculture, while trying to reject the traps of that tradition.

In this video interview with Thaemlitz, I particularly enjoyed the segment in which Thaemlitz was asked about revolutionary political change. Below, I've transcribed a segment beginning at around 4:35.

Readers of Other Life will note more than a few resonances with my own perspective. In my register, Thaemlitz is referring mostly to the problem of instrumental rationality. Marxism is deeply invested in instrumental rationality, so it never escapes capitalism but only adds a new layer of sophistication. The solution is too simple for overly-sophisticated people to adopt: just stop trying to solve things, be honest, let one's truly existing hypocrisies shine forth for what they are:

When I said we just need to stop, I didn't mean to stop and start over. What I meant was simply stop and catch up, because I think that we have a way of just going on and on without... demystifying all of the baggage through which we interact with each other socially. And I think that in a kind of historical materialist perspective. We need to kind of catch up with these things. I don't think we ever could totally catch up in, like, some sort of 100% consciousness of social process blah blah bullshit. But I think that you know, there's a way in which always focusing on the future, always focusing on dreams and what we anticipate, what we'd like to happen, and desire, of course — desire is always conditioned by the domination and struggles of the present. So in that way it's totally contaminated in a way that perpetuates the power struggles of the present. For me, historical materialism the way Marx wrote it, was really fascinating and informative… But then once you start looking to the future and you get all this communist idealism and the utopianism in the idea of where we need to go from here, you can see how totally corrupted and polluted it was by its own limitations. And so for me, this is where it all becomes science fiction and I'm not interested in science fiction and especially as a materialist, you know, so this is a kind of contradiction in the philosophy itself. When I said yesterday in the performance, rather than all this dreaming, if we could just say "hey, stop," for me this is like a kind of panic, it's not at all about resetting or starting over it. It's really just about giving ourselves a moment to stop and think and if it means… let things fall apart, and we realize the bank systems and business and all these things — what things can survive after this and what thing's don't? And maybe we can reorganize or something. I don't know. But for me, we don't ever get to a breakpoint or a shift point for me. This is really that time is always chaotic and always multi-layered and so it's not about strategy for me — or any singular strategy — as much as just trying to be hypocritical in the moment and let as many hypocrisies and problems and things that we normally deny come to the surface and understand them as always happening. Society doesn't collapse when we become hypocritical — society is hypocritical. So what does it mean to actually engage that hypocrisy directly and honestly?

muz.in - ep.3 - Terre Thaemlitz (part 1)

As I've argued before, there are actually good reasons to believe that this kind of position causes real dynamics of collective liberation:

...an honest reporting of our own helpless stupidity is generative of energies for collective search (“most people are as stupid as I am, so my chance of figuring out what to do is as good as anyone else’s”); sincere irreverence and non-conformity leading to the breakdown of bourgeois repression (“all these people who want me to be a normal servomechanism of capital are dumb and powerless”); an increase in risk-tolerance through a decrease in false hope (“I used to be cautious because I thought I had a chance of surviving, but now that I see none of us will survive at present, I might as well try to do something I find interesting, which, ironically, makes me feel like maybe there is a chance…).”

Activism is a capitalist virus from the future (honesty is stage-one cybernetic communism)

Amazon is only showing one book by Terre Thaemlitz, but Google will find you much to explore. I would love to meet and talk with Thaemlitz, but I see from her website she is opposed to big internet platforms. I'm obviously way less concerned about that problem, though I love her militance.

Wang Yi's Other Life

A listener of the podcast writes me about a Christian pastor in China who was recently detained. The pastor Wang Yi has released a personal and theoretical statement that followers of my work (and readers of late Foucault) may find compelling. My listener summarizes the background:

In your podcasts I've often heard you talk about religion and revolution so I thought you might find some inspiration from this letter. Wang Yi was a former academic who became a leader in the house church movement in China. He, along with his wife and over 100 followers, was arrested the other day and has not been heard from since. This letter was written with instructions to release it if Wang Yi went missing for more than 48 hours. It's a profound combination of a statement of faith and a meditation on revolution.

Here is his statement. It's worth reading in full if you're into this kind of stuff. Here are some choice bits as a TLDR.

The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world...

This does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China...

From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world.

That's the "kynical" model of radical politics right there, dating back to Diogenes of Sinope, as discussed by Foucault in The Courage of Truth and by Peter Sloterdijk in The Critique of Cynical Reason.

There's also the following line, which encapsulate the Spinozan dictate "no hope, no fear."

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power.

I wish him the best.

Why Write One Book When You Can Speak 18 Volumes?

Have you ever wondered how and why The Life of Samuel Johnson is so damn long (and influential), even though he's just rambling like a livestreamer on adderall? Some thoughts on the current frontiers of idea production.

Organic conversation is one of the most effective ways to generate thoughts; and passive audio recording of organic conversation is one of the most effective ways to convert thoughts into an external output. But audio is highly sub-optimal for searching, arranging, or creatively aggregating recorded fragments into higher-level projects. This is one of the major bottlenecks that has, so far, prevented the explosive production efficiency of podcasting/livestreaming technology from flowering into a proportionately explosive renaissance of independent book publishing in the more sophisticated intellectual domains.

Whoever can solve this bottleneck, or I should say, whoever is at the front of iteratively solving this bottleneck right now, may very well enjoy a unique and substantial intellectual-political edge, perhaps not unlike that enjoyed by Luther. Or so it seems to me, at least — which is why I've been investing some time into testing the current frontiers of speech-to-text technologies (here, and here).

I recently used Youtube's editing tool to split off a 5-minute clip from a recent conversation I had with Michael James, just because it felt like a not-so-bad draft of something I've been thinking about recently but never yet even tried to jot down. Then, for the trivially low cost of $0.1, I had Temi transcribe it. It took me about 10 minutes to edit it, and post it as a blog post. For now, it's not yet worthwhile to transcribe every audio/video conversation I conduct, but as the transcription gets ever more accurate, it will be trivially easy and cheap to make perfect full-text versions of any recording. Put them in a folder, tag the sections, identify higher-order patterns, cut the chaff; repeat until something substantial emerges, concentrate where necessary, extend where necessary, and extraordinary things might be produced more efficiently than ever.

The implications are potentially profound for intellectuals and creative folks. It's also a potential opportunity for internet upstarts to achieve a substantial edge over legacy establishment intellectuals. Those people will be very late to this game. Three crazy people and a little bit of adderall could easily produce a damn interesting book in one weekend, plus a few days of editing and arranging, or just pay a freelance editor on fiverr or upwork...

Thus, here is my proposed answer to the original question, namely, how and why is The Life of Samuel Johnson so damn long (and influential)? It's because Samuel Johnson just rambled for days on end, used James Boswell as a transcription AI, and self-published an 18-volume monstrosity on Amazon.com. Although it was probably only read by .001% of the people who claimed to read it, everyone nonetheless was forced to concede, "Wow, this guy must be freakin' legit!"

Fully Automated Luxury Communism as Rousseauean Techno-Commercial Cyber-Manorialism

My take on Fully Automated Luxury Communism is that — if it is anything — it should probably look something like a Rousseauean techno-commercial cyber-manorialism. In short, think The Four Hour Work Week with ~150 people enjoying guaranteed material comfort and deep belonging supported by a cryptographically formalized nobless oblige from a legitimate cyber-producer elite. Plus a bunch of 3D-printed guns for distributed deterrence.

Here's an off-the-cuff 5-minute spiel that basically gets the idea across, with a text transcript beneath.

Maybe just to fix ideas a little bit, I'll give you a really just embarrassingly stupid kind of cartoon version of my kind of rough, practical, efficient — and it's so stupid. It's like completely not thought out and not impressive but just to kind of fix ideas a little bit and give us more concretes to debate about it… it might be productive… And also just kind of funny.

I don't imagine some sort of fascist personality cult or anything like that. But it's more like… my practical model would be something like, you just have like 5 or 10 highly successful Internet businesses and maybe that means getting people who already have pretty successful Internet businesses or you just get together with a bunch of other smart people and you make a bunch of agile, simple, relatively, you know, easy to automate types of a purely digital internet-based businesses that are successful and make a good chunk of money.

Not like super-rich, but you know, you have a few internet businesses that make good money. Maybe you have a few of them and then you go somewhere super cheap. You buy 20-acres, 30-acres, whatever, just like you said. Buy a house or two with money from successful, functioning commercial enterprises that are location-independent, that exist fully in cyberspace. You buy up some land and some houses and then those people invite their friends and their family and maybe a few strangers that they want to take on board according to the calculations of how many diverse, heterogeneous strangers a community can functionally sustain. With the money from a bunch of Internet businesses, you just basically fund a healthy, egalitarian, tight-knit, cohesive community on a private plot of land.

And then you also do the things that you said. I think that's all really smart. You also take over the local government. You also take over the zoning laws or whatever, but basically the idea is you just fund the thing with highly agile and successful internet-age income streams that are automated. To me this is the practical instantiation of the meme about Fully Automated Luxury Communism. To me, if that means anything, it means you fucking learn how to use computers to make money in an easy way. And then you use that money to sustain a commune basically. But you do it in a more functional and effective way. You use everything we know about science, everything we know about human psychology, everything we know about group psychology, cutting edge knowledge about permaculture, all these things. You use personality science to align people and connect people in optimal ways, you use cutting edge knowledge about how to manage successful relationships.

And you all engineer on optimal culture in a fairly rigorous and aggressive way. Everyone has to agree to make this, to optimize for flourishing. And I think when everyone agrees to optimize for flourishing, that means you're going to have some strange rules and people are gonna have to collectively enforced each other. People are going to have to kind of force each other to be free. But I think that could be figured out, in ways that are not really being experimented with, in part because the people that self-select into building communes — I think it's fair to say probably, I would wager, the community that you're a part of — the people who self-select into these types of ideas and cooperative projects are generally temperamentally averse to the idea of "let's start by just making a shitload of money," and then figure out how to use that the most aggressive way possible towards the sustaining of communism. So that's my estimate of where the bottleneck is. Like there's a kind of aversion to the cool-headed engineering of successful commerce and an optimal culture-design and the enforcement that that would require. People who want communism are generally averse to that. And to me, if you can solve that bottleneck, you could really create a highly functional patch. Once you have some people doing that in a way that's commercially successful, where money is abundant, people are thriving economically, and the relationships are thriving, and it's like actual legit communism where everyone is guaranteed dignified, relatively equalitarian lifestyles… If you can engineer that, that's when you'd start seeing massive organic defections from the status quo. Like office workers would just be like, "fuck this, I'm doing what those people did!"

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