Notes for a New Year

anthrophilosophical remarks

  1. The future arrives without comment—and keeps arriving like gales in a storm; the human struggles to maintain its ballast. 

  2. I think, almost a year after Covid became a thing, people are beginning to understand that the changes we have made are essentially permanent rather than contingent; there is no going back. The idea that we will return to the pre-Covid era is a fantasy; Covid is the culmination, the consequence, of the way we were living; it is the sum of our fears—the manifestation of collective insecurity and anxiety. There is no outside of Covid in the western world anymore; there is no silver bullet—no vaccine, no mandate—that will end the state of crisis… because the crisis itself is an aggregation of the way we feel: it is a psychological rather than biological crisis.

  3. Covid-19 (a virus) may fade, but The Virus will last for a generation: it is a spectral presence—the father-ghost to our mourning Hamlet.

  4. The most erotic relationship available to us now is with a digital prosthetic.

  5. The Internet is becoming Catholic. If the early Internet was early Christianity—a few pilgrims breaking bread around a table—the new Internet is the Catholic church: a centralized, hierarchal control system.

  6. I don’t think it’s an accident that prescription drug use and Amazon sales rose in tandem over the last year.

  7. The quarantine dwelling is a heterotopia: a disturbing, warped, and yet somehow ideal space enabled by digital instruments. Our apartments and homes have become what Benjamin calls the “box seats on the theater of the world”: zones of absolute entertainment and cognitive gratification.

  8. The link between excess and unattainability. The more excessive fear becomes, the more unattainable real, embodied conviviality between becomes.

  9. Unfortunately, after a year of inertia and enclosedness, we have yet to practice, let alone master, the art of doing nothing.

  10. Industrial fear. Industrial sex. Industrial groupthink. These are linked phenomenon—entangled concepts.

  11. When I hear the expert-class discuss lockdowns and safety protocols, I can only think of Robert Moses, picking out immigrant neighborhoods to bulldoze (more or less at random), unconsciously attempting to destroy his memories of the Jewish neighborhoods he had left behind as a child. What experts of all kinds have in common is that they are essentially sanitizers: they destroy in the name of cleanliness and purification. It never occurs to the expert-class that there are bottom-up processes superior to anything a top-down command can instantiate—that chaos produces more beauty than order.

  12. We have colonized our own lives and slaughtered the natives. Us.

  13. The room of one’s own has become the prison of one’s own, complete with its own panopticon(s).

  14. The utopian structures we build in the mind in the 21st century are no less ugly and unlivable than the modernist structures tacked up across the world in the 20th century.

  15. I find the pretense of our new tech overlords striking (though not unfamiliar from a historical perspective). They are making the world more connected! safer! cooler! How wonderful! They want so badly for us cognitive serfs to like them—to applaud them as they ride back up to the digital manor house!

  16. All tech companies present themselves as ‘disruptors’—but I wonder why that’s considered to be a good thing.

  17. Dear Reader! Cultivate contempt for those who are still afraid! Aristocratic contempt is a healthy corrective to an age of performative, soulless, routinized, performative anxiety.

  18. Social media is internecine warfare between members of the tribe of idiots.

  19. My operating assumption is that the Internet exists for the sake of the production of porn—though increasingly porn without sex of any kind. Covid, domestic terror, protest movements et al. make spectacular masturbation material. They arouse us. We can’t get enough.

  20. Modernity as ideal space. The gradual transformation of Montaigne’s library tower into Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.

  21. Arguably, the reaction to the Capitol riots is based on the feeling that they were too real. The QAnoners made a critical mistake: they tried to impress their digital fantasies on the wax tablet of physical space. The broke The Cardinal Rule of the Internet, which is not to take anything too literally. They foolishly tried to leave the Internet.

  22. There is no doubt that we’ve entered into a highly reactionary and anal-retentive period of history.

  23. The shift in collective preference for liberty to a preference for predictability is damning, but not unexpected. When we automate our lives, we become remarkably fragile. The growing (ill) liberal police state is simply the logical result of too many people becoming too afraid (and too mentally and physically weak) at once. Just as grip-strength has declined over the century—the average person in 1900 was much stronger than the average person today—our get-a-grip strength has declined precipitously. So don’t expect the passionate cries for more public safety to abate: they are the cry of a future announcing its arrival.

  24. Democracy implies a certain amount of undecidability and unpredictability: it is a bottom-up process at its best. So it’s hard to see how today’s brand of phobic, reactive ill-liberalism, obsessed with retro-fitting lived reality to expert models, will tolerate democracy at all.

  25. It’s possible that the Deep State’s hard-on for hunting down ‘traitors’ (I’ve heard friends casually tossing that word around a lot lately too—like there’s nothing creepy about it) will die down. It’s also possible that FBI and CIA will enjoy fucking us so much that they won’t want to stop—that they won’t be able to get enough.

  26. A neat trick. The emerging coalition of tech, finance, political insiders, woke academics, and media elite seems to have discovered a winning formula. They have realized that, together, they can monopolize every step in the process of information production: that political power is generated by discursive machinery. Monopolize data and the interpretation of data… and power just happens. There’s no need for bloody revolutions; passive, digital insurrections will get the job down without anyone noticing.