Hyperstition Americana

I like Lana Del Rey. She’s not super hot, and she's not a great singer — but she’s become an entity that is “super hot” and “great singer.” That’s true art.

She succeeded in the political game of occupying both of those categories, all the more impressively because she did it through an elaborate persona constructed out of thin air. Nobody thinks of her alongside someone like Andy Kaufman, but she’s more similar to Kaufman than she is similar to your typical female pop star. If you look at someone like Madonna, people always knew she was a performance artist. If you look at someone like Taylor Swift, she has achieved a remarkably duplicitous public image, but that’s mostly the work of her corporate leaders. The achievement of Lana Del Rey is epic mass deception, a conspiracy in plain sight, a long-term gaslighting of the entire spectacle, and by her own hand: True Art.

I admire this, it’s far more interesting and impressive than someone who just happens to be super hot and a great singer. Anyone can be blessed with those things. How many normal people with modest gifts for the criteria under selection, will use deep creative fabrications to counterfeit them on such a scale that nobody is powerful enough to stop it? You might only get a few of those per decade.

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.

So what if I’m afraid of death

I must admit to feeling afraid of death. I am drawn to religious belief, in part, because I think I do want help with my fear of death. I don’t see why it would be an intellectual violation to want such help, and to experiment with solutions coming from beyond rational justification. If understood properly, I don’t think such recourse to the religious is intellectually dishonest or irrational (although it may be extra-rational).

I recently got high before flying in a plane and I thought a lot about dying. If this plane goes down, I thought to myself, I would much prefer to have an already developed and practiced confidence facing this experience, to die with calm and grace. I suppose it is possible to enjoy such a cool composure, in the face of death, through a rationalist practice of life, but in my view thus far I don’t see how it’s possible. So long as one’s orientation to human experience is organized centrally around the search for ever greater rational coherence, the moment of death must always be, at best, an unfortunate and bewildering event. For it cuts off the rational search, and in that moment one can know nothing other than the futility of reason in the final analysis. How this could produce anything but a sad and childish frenzy of confused anxiety, I really cannot imagine. I would quite like for it to be an exhilirating and exalted moment in which I genuinely believe that all is exactly as it should be. Looking around and considering my options, as a living person who could die any day, it seems that some kind of genuine religious commitment is the only available method of securing such a graceful end.

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