The Cave of False Consciousness III

Posted by on February 18th, 2010 at 9:08 AM

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

—Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents

Our comatose or delusive pseudo-consciousness—with all the truly aristic or audacious culture entropized out of it—is eminently implicated also in every other issue that arises for us.  Our contemporary crisis is not a “jobless-recovery recession” that threatens to lapse deeper and deeper into the abyss of a “depression.”  It is rather (on the one hand) the large-scale historical logic and predictability of these reiterative/structural Kondratiev-cycles of long-wave booms and busts, and (on the other hand) the mass-controllability of our stupefying culture of specious, myopic concerns such that moderns no longer dare or are competent to look these fated currents directly in the face, any more than moderns are bold or competent enough to see their own selves for the pathetically custom-and-habit-bound, conditioned slaves they have actually become.  “False consciousness,” a deliberate and narcotic benightedness of a magnitude and depth moderns are culturally and philosophically unfit even to conceive, hangs over them like a pall of evil sky, of miasmal pollution—more truly, like the exhalations of their own maculate lungs.

The crisis consists in late-capitalism’s universe of incurable egocentric self-delusiveness, the all-too-easily-organized and delirial self-denial by means of which materialist and imperialist societies positively drive toward such cataclysms, over and over.  (A piece of Heraclitean wisdom two and a half millennia old:  “It would not be better for humans if they got what they want.” Although no one can mechanically predict in detail the end of its lifeline, the society of utmost techno-augmented hybris or self-indulgence—the world-order into which “market-society” eagerly degenerates by “giving people what they [are induced to imagine that they] want” for the sake of the self-aggrandizement of a few, is inevitably a prelude to the most precipitous plummet into catastrophe:  it was always, after all, nothing other than a scheme for organizing the most toxic and irrational of human motives into their most concentrated and synergetic form, and hence ultimately a pseudo-scientific, pseudo-objective cult devoted to maximizing the convergence of chaos, injustice and self-blindness.  We should not be astonished at the depth and extent of corporate-induced corruption revealed in the sciences, in medicine, in economics and in academia no less than in government:  we should be surprised that there are still enclaves of principled professional resistance left within our totalitarian materialist empires.)

The societally dysfunctional, self-serving centralized control of wealth and power leads over and over to delusionary inflation and implosive deflation in the stock market and finance, and other such straitened and devastating “resolutions” of intolerable stresses.  In history no less than in life “irrationality” (as Einstein is so frequently quoted) consists in nothing less than doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  But the history of capitalism over the past four centuries is precisely such cycles, now so well known that their vicious repercussions can be finessed and diverted to afflict cities and classes that do not count, segments of the society that are media-wise taken as “collateral damage” in the fraud- and mendacity-wars, the covert class-wars.  —Or as the past master of the philosophy of history, Hegel, acridly phrased our normalized irreality or delusiveness:  “All that we learn from history is that no people has ever yet learned anything from history.”  Humans in their social settings are nothing but ambulatory, ahistorically and unreflectively clueless carriers of an always-mobilizable amnesia.  Each time, as if victims of some recurrent, climactic historical Parkinsonism, vast populations are astonished to find how readily great masses of morally evacuated humans can be organized precisely through their supposed “consciences” and “powers of rationality” and (of course) mass-concern for their modernly endangered “individualism.”  A titanic nihilism presents itself, every time, as the grand and glorious heroic cure against the threat of nihilization:  and all of that perversely and ironically measures how inept, rootless, groundless, and delusionary human “consciousness” has become in its toxic modern contexts and modifications.

—The chief privilege of great wealth and power among humans is their ability to purchase impunity or immunity, exemption not just from legal and political consequences but also from societal, civilizational and natural effects of their own exercise of domination:  the extraordinarily wealthy and powerful have never failed to grasp the godlike or superhuman prerogative of acting without having to suffer equal but opposite reactions, the counterforces by which nature, society, values, etc. try to assert their own integrity and necessary priorities for their continuation.  The apex of wealth and power, as the manias of all manias, is achieved when these are able to erect institutional and ideological buffers armoring them against any kind of effective unmasking, accusation, mass-disillusionment, or historical correction against their extravagance or hybris:  the fetish or cult of money and wealth thus routinely expropriates the sanity, clarity and rationality of their mass of human subjects, and not just of the warped, corrupted and obsessive mentalities of the wealthy and powerful themselves.

The wealthy and powerful are decisively not autonomous “individuals” but, ultimately, carriers of an obsessive-compulsive mania, a malignant viral gestalt of dysformed and dyscultured personality known as a vice (vitia) in more clear-headed societies.  Such demonic manias insulate, liberate and extremize themselves quite cunningly, indeed they are far more ingenious and calculating at this imperative of self-aggrandizement than are ordinary forms of “consciousness” or “personality,” which are at best only averagely calculating and coordinating.  That is why the controls and conditions of human “organization” are, everywhere on this planet, in the hands not of sober, “duly diligent” or self-concerned human beings of well-rounded conscience and intelligence but rather of those amoral and totalitarianizing drives and their generally ruthless avatars.  The “history of civilizations” is inextricable from those Promethean and arrogant species of dementia, for, as Nietzsche observed, “Madness may be rare in individuals but it is the norm among peoples as a whole.”  The power of wealth and power guarantees that manias subservient to them and instrumental to their programs will indeed become the norm.

The indomitable irrationalisms of the most obsessive personalities have evolved to isolate their febrile but reptilian “passions” not just from criticism and higher values but from reality itself, indeed from all the systems of natural order in toto:  these passions are imperatives hellbent on emancipating themselves (“laissez-faire”) to complete their Icarus-arc, their orgasmic-climactic and cataclysmic reach for the only kind of “greatness” their monomaniacally impoverished mentalities and personalities can ever fathom.  Some ingenious and audacious self-aggrandizers may become historically significant for having evolved new methods or stratagems for the repertory of capital, but in retrospect few mogul-industrialists or demonically addictive financiers will be regarded by ages to come as anything other than misery-propagating monsters in luxuriously tailored suits.  It has been said (as for instance by Ingmar Bergman) that in war civilian populations find themselves catapulted into someone else’s nightmare; Americans, and moderns in general, inhabit the womb of such miscreants’ expertly crafted delusions.  It is to this end that the multitude’s “consciousness” has itself been tailored (castrated, more aptly), and also to this end that whole populaces have been nourished and normalized in blithe apathy toward all questions of what they ultimately have been reduced to and how they too have so complicitously fostered these wanton dementias and injustices.

The conscious “contents” of a society, especially one organized on a mass-scale, are as a rule grossly irrelevant to its ruling principles and structures:  far more significant and authoritative over it are its repressions, the vital matters that it has been idiomatically obligated to exclude.  A society is more truly and essentially defined, conceptualized and diagnosed by what it is allergic to confronting, perceiving or dealing with.  In every age, inevitably the most vital issues are buried in all that a society has neglected, censored or dismissed as “bad taste,” “heresy,” “subversion,” and the like.  Modernity has in no way caught up yet to the earthquake of insights that the most prodigious thinkers of the nineteenth century laid out:  for the vast majority of humans both “consciousness” and “culture” are, in the absence of value-intelligence and conscience, merely the names of a disease, a “sickness unto death” that corrupts every insight and perception in those blighted with the prevailing irrationalisms.  In spite of its seeming transparency the limpid liquid of “pure consciousness” is laced with solvents, psychedelics, finitely controllable—manipulable, tunable, dirigible—hallucinogens:  ideologies, not ideas or insights.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.