THE CAVE OF FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS, VIII of IX

Posted by on July 21st, 2010 at 12:01 AM

We struggle to achieve values which are not really values
at all, in order to destroy things on which our whole existence
as human beings depends.        —Kafka

In our collective and personal vices we are merely living up to what is anonymously, ambiently or mass-expected of us:  we wallow in our “own concerns,” our petty and deformative idiotia or private-consumerist-retardate priorities that blithely eat away the wholeness of the world like myopic termites at work on a decadent old mansion.  We are so blitzed with political and ideological amoralism and techno-fetishism that the very concept of values, virtues, sanity, wisdom, and other forces conducive to self-equilibrating psychic health has slipped irretrievably out of our grasp.  Our minds and our lives are no longer our own to direct; we are only entitled to live and act and consume insofar as we perform according to the logic of Bedlam-Marketeria; indeed, not even the most Olympianly privileged above us have any ultimate self-understanding or self-mastery over why they do what they must do; they are playing a kamikazi-game they are addictively compelled to try to win, and playing it with ascribed or inculcated ingenuity.  Modernity’s organizational and societal chess-masters themselves are merely a different rank of pawn, cleverer and more devious but still subordinate to the abstractivist deities of our post-human architectonics, the Mammon of astronomical Tera-Quantity.  (I recall whenever I see the “tera-“ that is the etymonic prefix for “trillion” that “terat-“ is the etymon signifying “monster.”  How abysmally well the Greeks understood our execrably irrational and deluded kind.)

—Where other societies struggled to comprehend which values are most essential to life and civilization, our own social system seeks only ways to maximize its manias, to rationalize its ungovernable fixations, cravings, delusions and obsessions as if they could perform the same functions as values, when in actuality they are the very antipodal forces to values.  From millennial perspectives—from which we are everywhere scrupulously shielded–we are not champions of a glorious new-world “ethos” much less of any sort of streamlined “utopia”; we are the pathetic guinea pigs of a self-experiment in anomie or nihilism, the systematic extermination of value-intelligence, of wisdom and culture.  As  heterogeneous as Saharan Science is from ancient Sophia, modern “society” or Gesellschaft is from pre-modern political community or normative Gemeinschaft.  It is anything but accidental that we have so utterly few cogent and comprehensive voices of incisive and diagnostic intelligence among us, despite our plenitude of media and conduits of communication; not just our “popular” or “commercial” media but our organized institutions of education as well have concertedly labored not to enrich but to exterminate all antagonistic modes of culture, intelligence and curricula.  Incomprehension of philosophical concepts and critical perspectives is merely one of many symptoms of the modern “void of principles” (anarcheia) amidst a wasteland of diversionary trivia, games, sports, self-deceptions, self-interested careerism, ephemeral fashions in music/cinema/books/art/journalism, and the kaleidoscopic politics of ingenious weaselry.  Failure to fathom what we are so pythonically doing to ourselves generation by generation is precisely what is to be expected from the relentless asphyxiation of diagnostic value-intelligence.

The mummery of “giving the people what they want” is chief among our organized manipulations of fraud and misdirection.  The pollution of our dysculture by democratist narcissism has achieved everywhere a placative “delusion of adequacy,” as slackers self-approve of their amnesiac habits and attitudes of narcoleptic, ahistorical complicity, always deeming their ineptitude and vagueness as “good enough to get by.”  “Thinking” among the vast majority, but most of all among the self-supposedly “educated” caste, is just the way all-too-contemporaneous mentalities draw their own “mind-forg’d manacles” tighter and tighter.

—Some people, even though comparatively sane, clarified or self-critical, nonetheless “have” delusions which are finite tumors within the over-all organism of their personalities; but other people by contrast are their delusions, because all that they think they know and see—and understand and value and respect—is inextricably rooted in these aggressive, uncontainable and metastasizing vampire-cancers of the psyche.

Even the most minimally philosophical individual has to wonder about the structure and etiology of the blighted human condition, the atrophied sense of wonder or doubt or questioning-critical consciousness that moderns take for granted as the stifling matter-of-factness of modern/bourgeois philistinism.  But nothing exists in the realm of the forces of actuality that merely inadvertently happens to be so:  the philosophical or rational poverty of the vast majority of humans exists because it was genetically designed and cultivated as something programmatic, a perverse and structured enterprise of higher-order deprivation in which precisely the most powerful and wealthy interests have a decisive stake.  In book VII of The Republic, Plato gave an allegoric account of “the human condition” as the intersection between the pathos of “human nature” and the dominion of organized powers that exploit this pathos as a species of delusionality desperately needed as a fertile reciprocal precondition for their mastery over whole populations.  Organized and radicalized pathos is by no means useless; it is the most crucially, pivotally useful thing in the world, recognized and grasped under its trade-name as mindless Complicity or Gullibility. It subdues or enslaves whole societies en masse.  Human philosophical/political/spiritual effeteness, although in many respects characterological and congenital, is also a functional and self-replicating asthenia; it insidiously defines virtually all social orders because power, pelf, and privilege are not ultimately possible in the absence of this spiritual poverty.

Although in some eras the explicit eruption of disillusioned politics and culture noir becomes all but inevitable, Plato’s account is overall so true and penetrating as to be unfathomably bleak and (just because of its acute accuracy) viscerally discomfortable/incomprehensible to nearly every generation of humans as a whole.  In open defiance of Greek aristocratic “Apollonianism” or the classical faith in knowing/truth/self-mastery (“know thyself”), Plato’s Allegory of the Cave took humans at large to be a mass of benighted prisoners, addicted to a sucrosis of official images and confined well away from the searing and revealing light of actual truth.  The great majority of humans is apparently only content if it can live as a herd controlled just through its visceral apathy about what is true, essential, valid, and actual; the limitations of this collective are defined as authoritative human nature itself, a wrangled herd pleased to be fed simplistic and contrived junk-evidence, junk–logic, junk-history, junk-faith, and junk–culture, all the narcoses typifying an ulteriorly motivated realm of specious and superficial “phenomena.”  Truth is alas something only audacious and autonomous spirits are fit for; long before they took the form of high-tech media, phenomena were and always have been pap for rumor- and reputation-besotted slaves, who wallow in currents of flattery and pacifying placebos from their duplicitous masters.  For self-mastery, indeed it is necessary to “know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” but this has forever been a stringency to which all who crave complacency and the bliss of know-nothingism are violently allergic.

In effect, the regime of the Lords of Human-All-Too-Human Vices, Vanities and Pathos may be a humanly contrived arrangement or conventionalism; but human natures, such as they are, make this regime of mutual corruptivity virtually a metaphysically ordained Fate, a scheme of genetically prescribed misrule arising from the thwarted self-formation that humans libidinally and egocentrically need to take for granted as “normal.”  But this regime does not become a full-dimensional system of controls until it has reduced the nearly infinite domain of culture, perspectives, insights, values, and principles also to the prevailing crabbed and crippled dyslogic.  And that is what passes as “public intelligence” or, more ludicrously, “common sense,” throughout our licentious Babel of self-diversions.  Through its cultural wing or the hydraulics of its tides of ideology and orthodoxy, a system of strategic narrowness and one-sidedness–that is to say, of adventitious or off-the-rack delusion–achieves preemptive controls and conditioning over everything its subjects may attempt to imagine, desire, see, hope for, try to understand, etc.:  this is the “a priori” or preconceptualizing extension of the reigning patterns of power, i.e. the corruption, contraception or abortion of all insights to the contrary, all independent critical resources.

Earlier in The Republic, long before the Allegory of the Cave, a “sophist” or whore-to-power, Thrasymachos, says concisely and explicitly what of course no sophist today would put so nakedly, so directly and enlighteningly—that so-called “justice” is nothing but the interest of the stronger party:  only a child or a fool would imagine that the supposedly “disinterested” schemes of law, education, information, etc. have anything at all to do with what is essentially or intrinsically true, good, right, just, rational, etc.  They are, instead, just a form of narcosis, an anesthetic or a verbalistic mesmerism for the multitudes, a sublimated or camouflaged matrix for cultivating more complex and more profound forms of domination via “bafflegab,” the utter thwarting of not just intelligence but consciousness as well by means of routinized rhetoric.  The ancient sophists, as we see from the remarks of Gorgias, understood that rhetoric was to the psyche what drugs were to the body, a force to overpower health and sanity.  What is not directly dealt with but only implied in Thrasymachos’ remark is that, even when the weaker/defeated interests or classes try to think about what they deserve or want and what is ultimately wrong or evil in the way their society ordains them to suffer and to vent their anger and anguish toward some Judas goat or other, even the victims of injustice are venting and anguishing not in terms of what is true or rational but only in self-crippling, merely emotionalist terms that the more powerful have “educated” and “rewarded” them Pavlovianly for taking for granted.

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