Notes on Modern Monsters: from Anarchists to Zombies

A friend of mine recently had surgery, and in one of those thoughtful moves that never seem to occur to me, one of his co-workers lent him a bag of easy-reading books for his hospital stay. While I was visiting him I found him asleep, and started the nearest book that seemed good (the one he was in the middle of, of course), World War Z, by Max Brooks.

Zombies have been showing up more and more in pop culture – from video games (Plants vs Zombies and Left 4 Dead are only two of the more popular out of many many examples), books (WWZ, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), activities (zombie walks), to of course movies.

A friend of mine recently had surgery, and in one of those thoughtful moves that never seem to occur to me, one of his co-workers lent him a bag of easy-reading books for his hospital stay. While I was visiting him I found him asleep, and started the nearest book that seemed good (the one he was in the middle of, of course), World War Z, by Max Brooks.

Zombies have been showing up more and more in pop culture – from video games (Plants vs Zombies and Left 4 Dead are only two of the more popular out of many many examples), books (WWZ, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), activities (zombie walks), to of course movies.



WWZ is a post-apocalyptic fiction-documentary of the world wide war against zombies, which happens in the near future. The book is composed of interviews of people from around the world who have played different roles in the conflict—some significant, others not. The interviews take place after the war has been more-or-less won: although there are still zombies around, their numbers are decimated, working tactics and strategies against them have been discovered and disseminated, and people are no longer in denial that zombies exist.

What is a zombie? In this novel it is marginally explained as people with a medical condition, a condition that spreads like a disease. It is a marginal explanation because zombie-ness is only treated as a disease in how it spreads, not in how it starts or how a solution is found: there are no heroic scientist doctors racing for a cure. Other zombie scenarios have been conceived as a result of extraterrestrials (the Stuff, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), of human manipulation (the Stepford Wives, Night of the Living Dead, the Return of the Living Dead), of the supernatural (White Zombie, Zeder), and of disease (28 Days Later, I am Legend, Braindead). Sometimes the cause is unexplained, as in this book where it is vaguely attributed to a bite that someone receives from an invisible source while swimming.

Of course the concept originally comes from the Voudun tradition, in which a corpse is reanimated to carry out a wizard’s commands. The corpse has no capacity to be creative, and this lack of creativity or intelligence is the zombie characteristic that has remained most consistent over time. Intelligence is why the Borg (Star Trek, Next Generation) would not be considered zombies, although there are other similarities. (The Borg seems like more of a corporation or state gone berserk, using all of the mental capacity of each of the components for a goal that the components would not choose individually.)

But zombies are also driven: a zombie isn’t a zombie unless it is on its way somewhere, desperately and unthinkingly in search of food. They have a single focus and let nothing deter them (which of course is also their weakness, since they will continue in their path even as they are being dismembered or burned to obliteration).

And being en mass is the third most significant characteristic of zombies. One zombie alone hardly counts as a zombie at all. That sense of being besieged, completely overwhelmed by numbers of mindless ravening hordes is a major component of the horror that zombies represent.

So here we have a big unwieldy group that is driven by some unpleasant or mysterious urge, to which normal emergency responses don’t apply (they’re already dead), that cannot be reasoned with, that smells bad, is ugly (they will be in various stages of decomposition, after all), wants what you cannot comfortably part with, and is clothed in dirty ragged clothing that’s inappropriate for the situation. I couldn’t think of a more obvious analogy for fears about immigration and/or class revolt.

In WWZ, Brooks is clearly using zombies as a metaphor for crisis, for acknowledging and critiquing how individuals and especially power systems deal with emergencies, and the interesting thing is how open the metaphor is. It doesn’t matter which kind of emergency the zombies are an analogy for: the fantasy component allows the reader to insert whatever fear-inducing element that they want to substitute.

Among those who speak monsters, zombies are always compared to vampires, as opposite poles of despair and poverty vs glamour and royalty. Today’s vampires in particular (like Bela Lugosi’s version) are suave, smart, powerful: mini Satans, each of them. (This is very different from the ugliness of Nosferatu in the expressionist German version of Stoker’s Dracula.) These days vampires offer upper class sophisticated seduction: the temptations (and dangers) of the city. As in the Buffy-verse, they are more about being an outcast elite than being scary. Zombies, on the other hand, are about the unwashed masses.

This makes the fairly popular cultural phenomenon of zombie walks disturbing. Zombie walks are public social events with participants dressed and made up as rotting corpses, charged with acting like zombies, and sometimes acting out feeding on people and the consequent creation of new zombies. Frequently these parades are pub crawls. If part of the horror of zombies is the immiseration of everyday life, in which people go unthinkingly through routines over which they have no control, no influence, driven entirely by habit and bodily urges, among millions who are all in the same situation, then there is something perverse about (insufficiently) detourning this state.

Zombies might be of slightly more significance for people in computer geek culture, a scene that is notorious for feeling beseiged by people who they care about and even yearn for, but who are too stupid to understand or appreciate them. This sense of being the normal ones surrounded by the less-than-normal, is a very different take on elitism than that of the vampire crowd.

If zombies are about some kind of elitism, some fear of being surrounded and swallowed by a horde that is mindless and amorphous (yet atomized—unlike The Blob, for example), then it becomes a way to talk about one of the principle contradictions of anarchist practice/thought, which is the conflict between the goals of autonomy and revolution.

To the extent that anarchists believe in autonomy, believe in people’s capacity to create their own lives, to determine their own goals, etc, and that we don’t have the answers for other people, then to that extent we are in conflict with the kind of dramatic world wide change that we want to experience/create.

If we trust people, then we have to accept that most don’t want revolution, most don’t want dramatic change, most don’t want what we want, at least not enough to do much about it.

If we don’t trust people’s capacity to understand themselves or at least run their own lives to the best of their ability, then we have gone a fair way to becoming just like every other vanguard group ever, thinking that we do have the answers, and that we are more perceptive and intelligent than others and so should be running things.

People with politics (not by any means just anarchists) have found a dozen ways to work around this question, from saying that people are rebelling just not politically, to saying that people would rebel if they had any hope, to ignoring the question and just charging ahead with good egoistic principles… but the question is still there. What does it mean for anarchists to push change on people who don’t want it?

I come back to my favorite question ever. What kind of monster will you be?

The Red Tower

This month I want to say a few words about Thomas Ligotti, an author of short stories in the horror genre. This is not a genre I am particularly well-versed in; although I have been since my teenage years a huge H.P. Lovecraft aficionado, and am reasonably familiar with a lot of the Weird Tales-era pulp material that formed Lovecraft’s milieu as well as some of his literary progenitors like Poe, Machen and Blackwood, I don’t really have much of a sense for horror as a genre, and am almost entirely ignorant of late 20th century and current manifestations of the medium. I have read very little Stephen King, no Clive Barker, and am not even sure what other names are important enough to horror that my ignorance of them is relevant to this review. Thus, I am not capable of analyzing and contextualizing Ligotti’s work in a way that would be attentive to the larger thematic and stylistic conversation he doubtless sees himself as taking part in, or of writing a review that would satisfy a real fan of horror.

This month I want to say a few words about Thomas Ligotti, an author of short stories in the horror genre. This is not a genre I am particularly well-versed in; although I have been since my teenage years a huge H.P. Lovecraft aficionado, and am reasonably familiar with a lot of the Weird Tales-era pulp material that formed Lovecraft’s milieu as well as some of his literary progenitors like Poe, Machen and Blackwood, I don’t really have much of a sense for horror as a genre, and am almost entirely ignorant of late 20th century and current manifestations of the medium. I have read very little Stephen King, no Clive Barker, and am not even sure what other names are important enough to horror that my ignorance of them is relevant to this review. Thus, I am not capable of analyzing and contextualizing Ligotti’s work in a way that would be attentive to the larger thematic and stylistic conversation he doubtless sees himself as taking part in, or of writing a review that would satisfy a real fan of horror.

However, it strikes me that Ligotti has written some things that could be appreciated by a generally interested reader of fiction, for lack of a better way of putting it. As is probably fitting for an author who works in a genre that is often dismissed as pulp, Ligotti’s stories, particularly the endings, are often sort of hokey, contrived, or in various ways unsatisfying. Several of them, however, are quite remarkable; here I would include, among others, “The Frolic,” “The Town Manager,” “In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land,” “The Shadow at the Bottom of the World,” and “The Sect of the Idiot.” These are all stories I have either read recently or remember; several others may be worthy that I have forgotten or never read. But there are two stories by Ligotti that I find completely astonishing, each of which I have read repeatedly since first discovering them around 2005. The first, which I will not be considering here, is entitled, oddly and charmingly enough, “Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech.” The second, which forms the subject of this brief review, bears a more prosaic title: “The Red Tower.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about “The Red Tower” is its characters, or perhaps it would be better to say its lack of characters—at least, its lack of human or even humanoid characters (There is a first-person narrator, but he (or she?) plays no real part in the narrative). And if the red tower, a broken-down “factory” of sorts, is the story’s protagonist, narrative tension is suitably provided by an antagonist, which is also not human. The first sentence of the story, in fact, introduces the main “characters”: “The ruined factory stood three stories high in an otherwise featureless landscape.” The landscape, then, is the other main “character.”

What is horrible, or horrifying, or anyway what makes this a horror story, is that the story provides a vision of existence in which creativity, production, and novelty are seen as a disease. The red tower is a factory which produces “novelty items,” which are gruesomely, and somewhat humorously, detailed by Ligotti. But we come to realize that what the tower produces is novelty itself, and that the latter is in some sense horrible, as it proceeds blindly, haltingly, and perversely to disrupt the grey solitude of nonexistence. The line between nature and artifice is made brutally irrelevant as we are brought to consider a factory that spontaneously produces its artifacts, often generating them in some ill-defined way that employs machinery which itself is grown more than made.

But if the line between natural and human production were simply erased in this way by authorial fiat, the story would be far too glib. Rather, what provides a vertiginously telescopic context to production is what might perhaps be termed anti-production, which is not anything as mundanely diegetic as “entropy” or any kind of force, but, hard as it would be to talk about, indeed, impossible as it would be to narrativize, is brilliantly adumbrated as the grey landscape that increasingly comes to the fore as the real, if implicit, subject of the story. And if production, novelty, that is, existence, is horrible, the grey landscape is even more horrible.
“The Red Tower” looks at existence, and contextualizes it in such a way that differences between natural and artificial, animate and inanimate, spontaneous and contrived, are not so much obliterated as made to seem petty. This is done by virtue of the “featureless landscape” which wages a sort of war against the red tower, subtly, insidiously, without effort or legible effect. Whether or not this is ontologically convincing, it is certainly horrible. But to call a story like this a successful horror story would be absurdly understated. “The Red Tower” is one of those pieces of writing that can be said to go beyond genre because it exemplifies nothing but itself, and it does so unforgettably.

Jorge Luís Borges, Infinity, and the Internet

Jorge Luís Borges, an Argentinean writer who is well known for his many short stories, some of which discuss such fantastic themes like dreams, libraries, labyrinths, god, and the less fantastic –see also, more real – like los gauchos (imagine Argentinean cowboys). Borges’s works of fiction, intertwined with the metaphysical have made him one of the most well known writers to come out of the western hemisphere during the 20st century. For the sake of this review, we will look at the relation between Borges, infinity, and the Internet. Five different short stories by Borges which relate to these ideas will all be briefly mentioned; the stories include The Aleph, The Library of Babel, The Garden of Forking Paths, Funes, the Memorious, and the Theme of the Traitor and Hero [all of which are available for free reading on the Internet at the above links].

Jorge Luís Borges, an Argentinean writer who is well known for his many short stories, some of which discuss such fantastic themes like dreams, libraries, labyrinths, god, and the less fantastic –see also, more real – like los gauchos (imagine Argentinean cowboys). Borges’s works of fiction, intertwined with the metaphysical have made him one of the most well known writers to come out of the western hemisphere during the 20st century. For the sake of this review, we will look at the relation between Borges, infinity, and the Internet. Five different short stories by Borges which relate to these ideas will all be briefly mentioned; the stories include The Aleph, The Library of Babel, The Garden of Forking Paths, Funes, the Memorious, and the Theme of the Traitor and Hero [all of which are available for free reading on the Internet at the above links].



When Borges was younger his family moved to Europe (1915-1921), where he was introduced to the avant-garde Ultraist movement in Spain. Ultraism can be described as being in opposition to everything that is thought of as Modernismo. Some have even compared it to Italian and Russian futurism, Dadaism, and French surrealism. In 1921 Borges moved back to Buenos Aires, where he started writing for and distributing avant-garde Ultraist leaning publications/texts. Often this would include him wheat pasting the texts (broadsheets) all over the walls of the city. Sadly, as Borges grew older, he drifted away and came to regret these ideas – even going as far as trying to buy all of the old texts in order to make sure they would be destroyed. So no one could ever read them again. Like the maximum ultraists of today, who are ‘waging a life-and-death war against consensus reality’, I like to think of these younger days of Borges as some of my favorite. Honestly, we all grow old – it’s just to bad some of us become grumpy old fuddy-duddies.

Oh So Borgesian…

It is thought by some that Borges was one of the first ever to write (and think) about the future of the Internet. While this may be a bit of a loaded statement, because let’s be honest – it all depends on how you interpret it, and as a fan of Borges [for the most part], I find the statement to be an intriguing one. Being that his works are fiction, he does this writing in a round-about way; in other words, these gems are hidden beneath the surface. Just to be clear from the beginning, Borges wrote the above mentioned texts during the mid 20th century before the major developments in the Internet actually got underway.

In the 1960’s with the creation of ARPANET, a project created by the government of the United States of America (USA) whose aim was to create a network to aid communication. One common myth about the Internet, was that it was created to combat / defend against catastrophe [a silent spring] during the Cold War, however this tall tale isn’t exactly true. Because, later on, using the ideas from ARPANET, the Rand Corporation started developing ideas about how to use the Internet as a weapon (nuclear fail-safe). While ARPANET can be seen as one of the original projects in developing what has come to be known as the Internet; Borges was already writing about very similar ideas – like the infinite library, or a place/object where one can go to see everything in the world.

In 1949, Borges wrote The Aleph which speaks of “the only place on earth where all places are — seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.” With the aleph, one is able to see the entire world from one place, almost exactly what computers and the Internet have become for many of us. While it is (thankfully) true, that not everything is on the Internet, ever look at where you live on Google Maps with street view before or belong to some social-networking site? When I looked up my residence in Google street view , it was kind of funny, in a very strange way – to see my family there, outside – “hey, this is our Internet fame! See how we work!”

An idea – is only as good, as it’s inspiration

Before The Aleph, Borges wrote The Library of Babel in which he states:

Infinite I have just written. I have not interpolated this adjective merely from rhetorical habit. It is not illogical, I say, to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited, postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairs and hexagons could inconceivably cease – a manifest absurdity. Those who imagined it to be limitless forget that the possible number of books is limited. I dare insinuate the following solution to this ancient problem: The Library is limitless and periodic. If an eternal voyager were to traverse it in any direction, he would find, after many centuries, that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder (which, repeated, would constitute an order: Order itself).

For Borges, the library is the universe and it is beyond count. It is composed of an indefinite number, perhaps even infinite, number of galleries. One can imagine, the Library of Babel being a place where you can find all the texts and works from the entire world – often organized in such a way, that makes it impossible to find what you are looking for. In 1894 Oscar Wilde quipped, “It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information”.

According to The Economist (Feb. 27th, 2010):

Wal-Mart, a retail giant handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes – the equivalent of 167 times the books in America’s Library of Congress. Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analyzing 3 billion base pairs – which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

they go on later to say:

Quantifying the amount of information that exists in the world is hard. What is clear is that there is an awful lot of it, and it is growing at a terrific rate (a compound annual 60%) that is speeding up all the time. The flood of data from sensors, computers, research labs, cameras, phones and the like surpassed the capacity of storage technologies in 2007. Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, generate 40 terabytes every second – orders of magnitude more than can be stored or analyzed. So scientists collect what they can and let the rest dissipate into the ether.

How does this library compare to what we know of today as the Internet? Of course, it’s enormous. But, is it something you can just dump something on, similar to a dump truck driving around a giant tube, as some have formulated? Are search engines like the aleph for browsing the tubes? Have you ever heard of a yottabyte? It has been stated that it is currently too large to imagine – but to get somewhat of an idea, as of 2010 not even all of the computer hard drives in the world combined would equal one yottabyte of data.

In another short story, Funes, the Memorious Borges writes about a person who after falling from a horse and seriously injuring himself, finds that he is able to remember everything. How do we push the limits of our mind, our imagination, and our passions? In a sense Funes’s brain becomes more computer-like with his ability to remember things, and perhaps even machine like. Or is it more human to expand upon our ability to do things we once thought impossible? Is it true that we only use around 10% of our brain? And, what if we figured out ways to use more? Would we be that much smarter? More powerful? Is that what we want? For Funes, it seems the ability to remember everything turns out to be a curse.

There is actually a condition called Hyperthymesia, with four confirmed cases in the world. It is defined as an individual who has a superior autobiographical memory. For instance, in the case of Jill Price – her memory has been characterized as “nonstop, uncontrollable, and automatic.” Supposedly, she became aware of her ability at age 8 (1974) and since 1980 can apparently recall everyday. Like Funes, Price sees this more as a curse, than something positive.

Ghost in the Shell

In one of the more well-known short stories by Borges entitled “The Garden of Forking Paths”, the comparison between the ideas within and the Internet have been made many times before. For instance when we browse the Internet there are many different paths to see and perhaps follow, leading in the end to a distinct destination (or none at all). It has been mentioned elsewhere, that Borges arguably invented the hypertext novel from this short story. Along with the fact that hypertext is one of the under lying concepts behind the World Wide Web.

What does it say about free will if we are able to choose different possibilities like this while using the Internet or in real life? In another short story by Borges entitled Theme of the Traitor and the Hero it relates a fiction of characters who are all acting out a predetermined play (in a sense). History is seen as a combination of repeating themes, which is to say there is no free will. Interestingly enough, with the further development and exploration of computer technology, some believe we have been able to study the idea of free will more closely. Obviously enough, computers are much better at processing large amounts of data, and doing millions of mathematical formulas over short periods of time. Non-linear dynamics, or the theory of chaos – seems like something Borges might have written about. But, it is in this story that we are told of us all being actors in one giant play. I’m blissfully unaware of Borges exact sentiments on this subject matter, but one can take ideas freely from what he has written.

In all, Borges wrote a lot of different texts – the majority of which are short stories. Some have even criticized him for only writing short stories, believing that it takes more from an author to compose longer novels. However, the profound themes and different subject matters in his stories seem wonderfully woven together. And honestly – after all, who doesn’t like being able to read a story in 20 minutes or so, and have it leave thoughtful ideas churning, that never seem to be at rest. Also, obviously – I have chosen certain stories over others, more fantastic ones, and as a writer it can be easy to manipulate these ideas. With that, I hope it is possible to see that I’m not trying to say Borges invented the Internet or anything of that nature. Who knows though, maybe the inventors of the Internet and all that jazz were reading Borges…

Spanish Nombres and links:

“El Aleph” – The Aleph
“La Biblioteca de Babel” – The Library of Babel
“El Jardín de Senderos que se Bifurcan” – The Garden of Forking Paths
“Funes el Memorioso” – Funes, the Memorious
“Tema del Traidor y del Héroe.” – Theme of the Traitor and the Hero

[author’s note: this text was originally written in Spanish, and then translated back into English with a lot of tinkering, as well as a much need revision of grammar/vocabulary, thus making this text – pretty much, brand new.]

The Unique One and Its Own

Alien causes, alien movements, alien issues, old and alien to each of us: the Good Cause, God’s Cause, the cause of freedom, the cause of mankind, the cause of man, the cause of world peace — each meant for someone or some group to throw on us to get us to serve when we should serve ourselves. We should live for ourselves, not for liberation, and we should beware of those who get us to do various chores for liberation. That is a trick that appears to accomplish progress when it accomplishes nothing but more alienation.

cubical lofts

Alien causes, alien movements, alien issues, old and alien to each of us: the Good Cause, God’s Cause, the cause of freedom, the cause of mankind, the cause of man, the cause of world peace — each meant for someone or some group to throw on us to get us to serve when we should serve ourselves. We should live for ourselves, not for liberation, and we should beware of those who get us to do various chores for liberation. That is a trick that appears to accomplish progress when it accomplishes nothing but more alienation.

cubical lofts

We have our own causes — the cause of myself and the cause of yourself. These are important causes. When you hear of issues of national importance, no, the cause of you is most important. What have you done for yourself today? How have you poured your energies completely into your own life?

There is the cause of serving no authority. Why should we?! It’s an old expectation to accept obedience and be glad in it, but why is it so wrong to make all of your decisions for yourself? Because it’s sinful, or it’s just wrong.

What are you working on? Why aren’t you occupied with yourself? Why aren’t you being yourself, fulfilling every whim and desire? The cause of oneself is belonging to no one and being one’s own possession, and this cause does not isolate but seeks out similarly self-determined individuals to live out this life.

We are everything despite still being told that God is most important. No, we are the most important. We are more important than an entire million-dollar church. At the same time, we’re nothing. Our past, our personal histories, our legends and accomplishments don’t mean shit, but what we want to do means everything or at least it should. There is nothing to tie us down, nothing to serve, not even our personas or what we promised yesterday. Perfection is a lost cause again serving an idea and the protracted ascent to it. We’ve arrived to our destinations without traveling; we’re perfect as we are. Ideas and spirituality can waste days into weeks, months and years if we consider them as much as possible rather than no more than they come and go. Clubs do not mean more than ourselves. They’re the ones who need members. The President, a deacon or a country are hyped-up symbols that we need to desecrate in order to take back our lives. Only we matter, and the others get in the way.

We’ve been interrupted from our concerns by our families’ docile morality and our obligation to the state — school. As children, we didn’t live for emancipation of the working class or for activism. That’s a religion that left-wing politics teaches. We also learned to stop ourselves from being unreasonable, ungodly or unpatriotic, but letting oneself go is not modern behavior; it is hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years old although it can appear especially recent and wicked. It can appear alien and repulsive, turn us off from being ourselves, and the repercussions can scare us back into normality. The Bible even tells Christians not to be patriotic but to be strangers and foreigners on earth; Heaven is their homeland, but this paradise after life is what I have a problem with. Life should be what I want it to be, but I haven’t made it anymore than what’s allowed.

That everlasting heavenly treasure is of course a pacifier that working people have held onto to get them through long days and nights of labor ever since the Egyptian slaves made it up under the Nubians’ prevailing crazy religion and tyranny. Christianity was the dialectical synthesis of Jewish worldliness and its philosophical antithesis as well as every other religion in Asia minor at that time, so this is why Christians can still wear business suits and not be laughed out of institutions. Their charity is for the poor as long as individual elements of mankind do not display feelings that are rude, uncivilized and barbaric or anything besides meek and grateful beneficiaries. To such purists, these hidden emotions are filthy, and the people who don’t control themselves are filth.

I could speak more about Christianity, but I’ll close with a thought about the ancient philosophers from that period. With city-states turning into another empire, they based their thought against or outside a natural order instead of in harmony with it; the planet was another obstacle to be conquered just as all of its inhabitants. There are some truthspeakers who seek attention to gratify themselves for choosing such an honorable higher purpose b/c, remember, there’s nothing lower than ourselves, amirite? We’re so dirty and mundane unless we live for the people. We’re boring, or so some think and consequently must pursue lofty, exciting ideas. It’s more important to lose our dignity and become the creatures that we keep caged. We’re wonderful people!

We should feel entitled to everything. Anything less is a ruling class success long in the making like a pet owner beating the dog. This is the morality that replaced the piety of religion which was Latin for binding or obligating. The former middle class of merchants have come to the fore, running their courts and basing their laws on liberalism and humanity. We are expected to carry that tyrant, the law, within our hearts, so justice prevails in all its glory! Lawful opposition loses the will for autonomy and engages in activism as a plea for freedom.

Self-willed people oppose governments with their might instead of petitioning for rights. To build a majority to replace the current injustice never works because waiting for strength in numbers doesn’t produce the kind of people who will take what is forbidden. These rules appear as unbridled freedom and protection of such freedom, so godawful people like ourselves don’t ruin the good thing they got going. Who minds working forty hours a week, forty-some weeks a year for his or her entire adult life?? That’s the liberty umbrella that covers all citizens but doesn’t quite nurture an individual’s uniqueness.

Can we listen to ourselves if we doubt our beliefs, or do they have us? The culture we learn makes us feel as though we are ascending into superiority, but we are only learning to cope by living with predictable outcomes. We should be humble neither before the stars whom we adore nor the law that terrifies us with its punishments. We are a part of both extremes, and we should not allow them to live through us. Crime can be terrible, and I can understand why some people choose to argue against all crime. On the other hand, even if a crime doesn’t cause the slightest damage to certain people or their loved ones, they nevertheless denounce it, and that doesn’t make sense. It also doesn’t make sense to treat such a criminal as a monster, but that is society. Those are the brainwashed fools who are stacked against us.

Humans should respect people more than their ideals, but the establishment and its obedient dogs still have not put down for good the worldly ones. Desire will always exist because it comes before, after and during servile ideology no matter how “awesome” it is to wear a uniform decorated with stars before a crowd of seated officers focusing on you. Being unique and allowing ourselves self-ownership is about fulfilling our wants rather than arguing for egoism and against everything else. Crusades are not an egoist’s duty.

For more information besides the book and the late Mr Schmidt’s reply to his critics, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed # 68-69 has a couple articles, and they point out Max Stirner: Recensenten Stirners (english / deutsch), i-studies: max stirner and Max Stirner within the LSR project (English). Also, The Anarchist Library has an egoist tag for similar authors as well as the two writings I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. The picture is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonask/2775464625/.

Spoiler Alert!

In the symbolic order, the mind twists. Objects stand naked. They convince you that they are clothed. They are clothed. There they stand, protected by the material properties of the fabric of your ideology. By the fate of paradox they at last stand draped. They were never naked. I am lost in the cloth of this object which has forever been stripped of its sublime status.

In the symbolic order, the mind twists. Objects stand naked. They convince you that they are clothed. They are clothed. There they stand, protected by the material properties of the fabric of your ideology. By the fate of paradox they at last stand draped. They were never naked. I am lost in the cloth of this object which has forever been stripped of its sublime status.



The sublime object, according to Kant, is essentially formless. It becomes an object of utility, a foreign object of exchange, only upon the ground of excess and waste which erupts ceaselessly from within the net of the ontological machines. There are times when the only psychological defence against this eruption is to reveal the eruption itself as if by revealing it its truth has been robbed. Eminem did this during his rap battle, stripping his enemy of his weapon but nonetheless inscribing the truth upon his body – he really is white trash. I did this when I was younger: I have a lisp, I said, my father cleans toilets and my mother takes care of the mad. In the end, my comedy only revealed the truth: I am a lowlife and will always be a lowlife. This is the psychological structure of jokes, as Freud was well aware: “Two Jews meet in a railway carriage at a station in Galicia. ‘Where are you travelling?’ asks the one. ‘To Cracow,’ comes the answer. ‘Look what a liar you are!’ the other protests. ‘When you say you’re going to Cracow, you want me to believe that you’re going to Lemberg, But I know that you’re really going to Cracow. So why are you lying?”

Imagine that. Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Alive Braga, servants of ideology, revealing themselves for the cameras in Repo Men (2010). Remy, employed as a Repo Man for a high-tech organ producer, eventually succumbs to sickness and and by the fate of irony becomes can not pay the bill for his own heart. Activists, Reactionaries, Politicians and Scholars—servants of the symbolic order, of knowledge—spend a great deal of time writing about the metaphor of health care, nicknamed ObamaCare. But this misses the truth which is right in front of their eyes. Remy, disillusioned by his employer, tries to take down the system. He believes that his unique insider status provides him the unique standpoint upon which to mount his attack, and indeed it does. In the end he wins.

The power of the symbolic order is its ability to retroactively inscribe meaning where before there was resistance and victory. Viewers are eventually brought back to an early moment in the movie when Remy was knocked unconscious (what was it, for the fourth or fifth time?): like a cruel joke, viewers witness the magic trick: the majority of the movie was a figment of Remy’s and our imagination, a post-ideological ideology – Remy’s brain was replaced with a neural net device invented by his employer. His resistance was a manifestation of the system he meant to defeat. The symbolic order possesses us and then repossesses us.

Althussar once said that “those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denial of the ideological character of ideology by ideology,” he continued, “It is necessary to be outside ideology […] to be able to say: I am in ideology or: I was in ideology […] ideology has no outside, but at the same time that it is nothing but outside.” Radicals eventually reach a point of saturation at the hands of ideology. Despair sets in. Let us look to the fantasies of cinema to see how they manage their affairs! They put all of their cards on the table and so should we. They play magic tricks with our minds, renewing their tricks in still purer forms. Perhaps its time we play a few tricks of our own.

We want it all – a review of Fever Ray

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.



As a young person I liked, preferred, angry music. Anthemic music about something better than the situation I found myself in. I wanted more but didn’t know any way to find it other than through anger and more, more and more.

Fever Ray is the solo act (which is more-or-less meaningless in the digital age of music production) that has spun off from the brother sister act The Knife. The siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer produce electro pop which is dance music (but probably not club music unless it is remixed) with implicit lyrical density. Fever Ray has a softer sound than The Knife but much of the instrumentation and loops are familiar.


We set fire in the snow
It ain’t over, I’m not done

I remember the black skirt the most. It reached to mid calf, was form fitting. Matched with a leather jacket and the striking red hair it remains my most vivid memory of her. As it turns out that memory is the best of what we had together and years later when I saw her again nothing remained but nostalgia. She hadn’t moved and I was miles away. I could barely communicate my good bye.

But it seemed real at the time, and that was enough. Still is, in sad fact, and those partial fragments, the skips between our disappointed experiences with reality and our expectations of what could be are still something I get out of music.

It isn’t a true love kind of relationship anymore as thousands of heartbreaks have finally scarred me to a certain kind of numbness but it’s close enough for this life.

The video for “When I grow up” is one of these moments. Mostly it is about the journey that all nervous brilliant people have when they travel from the known (in this case terra firma) to the unknown (an obscured body of water) but for me, who learned to swim at a late age and have never been a strong swimmer, the imagery was particularly dreadful. I am afraid of water and strongly identify with the transitional character from the video loaded with a kind of arcing energy. I experience it in my social life, in the moments where I succeed and fail, and near water.

It goes from white to red, a little voice in my head says oh, oh, oh

Clearly there is a renaissance happening in the visual arts in Northern Europe that has not crossed over to the techno-blast explosions of American pop music. Attention is being paid to details, visually and against the formalism of counter-culture, that can only speak to the transition of plastic artists to the visual medium. This kind of patience is endangered. Fleeting.


As I listen to the Fever Ray album I am reminded of the beauty and horror of post-modernism. As solitary musicians grab chunks of sound from every culture on the globe and transmogrify them into their own logic, into a dance-able paste of moaning and structured contentlessness, where digital steel drums, clicks and beeps replace rocks and sticks in our subconscious shared moment. I am frightened. This is not the same as what we have lost, of what has come before, but I relate to it.

My relationship to this cybernetic pastiche is a statement of my own bleak position as a consummate Western consumer of the latest craze of bohemian counter-culture. The siblings are famous for not being photographed and wearing masks during their public performances. They are an act and removed from the act. Just like me.