The Worst Afakens

The Worst Afakens

Months behind the curve here but I finally watched The Force Awakens–rented not bought from iTunes–on the laptop, while eating fish and chips at my desk. What do you call this? It’s like Star Wars has become an archetype. Now a direct copy––it’s not even a remix––is acceptable. An instance. For a piece of mass (hysteria) media to be so derivative shrinks the collective psyche. In order to subscribe to liking it (a separate thing from actually liking it or not) you have to forget.

Of course, the new copy is aimed at people much younger than me, who would not put up with the archaic SFX of the original. Perhaps it’s just a Generation X thing––jilted overgrowns watching kids movies and feeling left out that the makers haven’t kept them in the loop. Maybe the believe-yourself stuff pumped through Hunger Games etc is as good as any esoteric codex. Maybe kids grow up pumped with the star-seeded hero’s journey narratives of today only to end up aspiring to golf and corporate mafiadom anyway. Everything and nothing changes.

Now the Deathstar is ten times bigger and sucks energy from the sun and we must pretend for the sake of getting our money’s worth that Mark Hamill simply doesn’t and didn’t have the right face for the King of the Jedi. We may as well have had Michael J Fox. We miss Alec Guinness. After LOST I wanted more from Abrams. Only edgy thing he has done here is set the bar even lower for pressing out simulacra. Harrison Ford’s action movements are getting ludicrously ponderous, but maybe he and Chewie kind of rescue things on the nostalgia front. Maybe it’s sort of edgily cool that JJ casts English and Scots people in the Reich-like staff of the Deathstar, until you remember that the original had Peter Cushing. End of day that’s it for Star Wars, as Prometheus was death knell for Alien, as it will be for Matrix and Avatar if the rumoured prequels or sequels ever come out. I probably would collect an Agent Smith plastic figure out a cereal packet.

Which all goes to show that, everything–even (or perhaps especially) allegory about the entrapment of human consciousness–is eventually assimilated into the default post-modern, ‘scientific’, atheistic banality we are continually persuaded is “the truth”.

It’s a war of attrition, if nothing else. A relentless canoning of images at the re-uptake sites in the brain. Which is pretty much the mechanism of Evil itself–iteratively reinforcing the correctness of the ego, which will buy let’s face it pretty much anything. There is then a connection between the machine and the ego and evil.

Machines essentially repeat. Which is something different from natural production–the propagation of plants and animals etc. There is something mechanical about repeating the post-modern consensus that what there is (often delineated by rapping on the solidity of the wall or tabletop) is all there is and that is the way it always was and ever will be. You won’t hear Richard & Judy or Eddie Muir, say, say it in as many words. It is the point of view implicit in what they are saying and not saying. For the most part it is an unexamined point of view–often held by people who do not even know they are holding a point of view. The worse case is when the point of view is known to be a point of view, but is maintained for other, usually selfish, reasons. Worse still is where the point of view is known to be false and is maintained for selfish reasons.

In the Force Awakens we have a very crude awakening. The African-American child-being Fin is awakened by his conscience when he witnesses the ethnic cleansing of a village. Within a few beats he is helping the rebel pilot escape the Death star. And from there, like everyone else, he follows a character arc computed by an app or a widget in Microsoft Word. He might wield the light sabre for a moment, but Fin is basically Driving Ms Daisy. It would have been edgier to have made cast a Syrian or Afghan or Kurd.

But forget edgy. Of course the New Star Wars Movie was never going to be edgy! But ff that’s our point of view we need to urgently examine it! Is there not resignation in this acceptance that the New Star Wars Movie is pure simulacrum, fodder, mechanised distraction, laced with blue pill not red. Is it acceptable for a movie titled The Force Awakens? Is it alright that the movie encapsulates whatever might have been alluded to by “the force awakens” in the algorithms of Normal, in the mechanics of Evil? Is there anything new about the new Jedi in the movie other than that she is female? What force awakens in her and what does it do for her or anyone else? Maybe in the kamikaze X-wing pilots penetrating like sperm to the Deathstar egg we can read spirit’s impregnation of the void. Is Abrams channeling something in having the Deathstar suck energy from the sun or simply repeating what has already become an archetypal instance, a subroutine, a preset in the machine of plot-with-esoteric-reference?

Or to sum the whole thing up: is it okay to watch something called “The Force Awakens” and then go play golf*?

 

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* I often use golf as a convenient epithet for all that is Evil.

 

 

 

 

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Made in China

Image courtesy of Evening Standard.

Image courtesy of Evening Standard.

It’s hardly news: China runs tings. Last year saw David Cameron and a bunch of blue-blooded mafia mates head east, hoping to score fat trade deals on such British laurels as Peter Rabbit and…and well it’s hard to dig up anything else save guns and bombs. Surprising that ‘Great’ Britain still makes them, really.

The boot is truly on the other foot. A stroll down the high street this January would have ended up in one of the clothing chains or other, seduced by stratagems like ‘Up to 70% Off’ (NB “up to”). Likely more than 70% of the merch was made in China. And quite likely a growing percentage of the shoppers were too.

One such stroll found me on Carnaby Street, where I stopped for a moment–instantly buffeted by phone zombies and retail junkies–to take in the sight of a young Chinese lad and his family jerking their chins at the Doctor Marten’s shop.

At first I imagined they were charmed, thinking perhaps this was the original Doctor Martens, it being the famous Carnaby Street and all. Then I realized this was rubbish; they were more likely mildly surprised by the small size of the shop compared its gargantuan exported versions in shopping malls from Shanghai to Guangzhou. (Or should that be imported, as it’s more than likely that Doctor Martens is Chinese owned?)

It was not the shifting tides of international power microcosmed into a long-ago simulated London shopping street that really struck me, but the utter failure of that “great equalizer”––Globalisation–– to do anything for human culture. I mean, come on, it’s early days, Tony Blair would say.

But it isn’t. It’s very late days if anything. Shifting tides of the third dimension mean that middle class families from China can either send their offspring to learn––what? retail science? bomb making?––at British universities and spend their ample pocket money in the high street fashion stores and all with the exact same expat dynamic observed by Brits the world over. Alright, globalization has equalized something…

So now there’s a Doctor Martens, a Lush, a Zara and of course the obvious purveyors of chemically treated animal flesh in every city. Wander into one of those stores, comforted by its familiarity, its layout, product range and even prices identical to those back home. Frictions, such as language and cultural barriers, have been bulldozed flat. Possibly, there are cross cultural treasures to be found in, say, charming little differences in product range between Zara, London and Zara, Kuala Lumpur. Possibly those differences are more exciting than those between Zara Regent Street and Zara, Oxford Street.

But by and large urban culture is freefalling into that lowest common denominator of the shopping mall, scene of the original zombie movie, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and of J.G. Ballard’s last novel, Kingdom Come, whose flawed structure nevertheless prophecies the kind of action that unfolded at the post Christmas sales at Asda, Ikea and other religious festivals up and down the country. ‘The human race sleepwalked to oblivion, thinking only of the corporate logos on it’s shroud,’ wrote Ballard.

The rest is familiar posthuman history, which is hardly worth writing about. Of course you are waiting for the ironic, shamanic reversal behind it. And for that I turn once again to that most useful online corner, the internet anagram server, for this gem:

Machine and I

Which says it all.

© 2014 Nizami Thirteen

 

 

Vote Inner Obama

inner-obamaMunivara Ashram, Ubud, Bali. Lifting my torso into cobra pose one afternoon, my sweating face was suddenly gripped between the powerful hands of Mr Ketut Arsana. Are you Obama? he said. And so began my curious resonance with the Black President.

As I write, from Kinokuniya bookstore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is adjusting itself to vague disillusionment at the non-result of the 13th general election. Shortly after midnight last night, the ruling party, Barisan National, was announced as the winner. BN is the current version of the same power base that has ruled this young country since the legendary Mahatir Muhammad (aka Dr Umum) architected Malaysia’s particular mix of nationalism, federalism, corporatism, ethnic and religious diversity in 1981. Umum held his post as Prime Minister and head of UMNO (then ruling party, now incorporated into the BN coalition) for a record 22 years.

Ethnically mamak (Malaysian Indian Muslim) Dr Umum was (is) a living legend. In his time he was the man who stood up to the old colonial powers in trade battles. On several famous occasions – Apartheid South Africa and Bosnia for instance – he called them on their hypocrisy and double standards. In turn he was criticised – not unlike the late Hugo Chavez perhaps – for his centralisation of power and erosion of civil liberties. There was the famous showdown with former UMNO deputy Anwar Ibrahim, which lead to the latter’s imprisonment on charges of buggery. Malaysia still has no free press. (Well, does anyone?) To the West, Dr Umum became “Asia’s Dr No.”

As with any power base that resists change over time, stagnant channels begin to stink. Croneyism, money and houses for votes for instance. To be expected, you could argue, and all rather innocent against the politrix of big boys like Bush and Blair. This morning, Malaysians – a sizeable minority at least – suffered a blue Monday. The blue BN pennants continue to flutter from every available lamppost and railing. Probably they’ll still be fluttering there in six months time. The will of the people – a sizeable minority at least – has failed.

Probably the majority of Malaysians voted for no change. The choice after all was between BN and a coalition including Chinese, Sikh, Hindu, Islamic and assorted other elements – in other words Barisan National or not. A magician’s choice. One imagines the long, deft hand of Dr Umum behind this strategy. Or perhaps this is a little too 007.

The heavily televised BN victory stumbled home last night amidst odd notes. Live TV crews battled exhaustion then studio hysteria to think of new angles on what was in effect an ordeal of televised absurdity. As the night wore on the only surprise was the extent of the BN majority. In the closing moments there were cries of foul play. Bus, plane, ship loads of illegal Bangladeshi labourers had been spotted outside polling stations. The live vote count website went down. The electricity supply to the main counting centre was switched off in honour of Earth Hour.

With no independent press to follow up these stories – easily dismissed on TV by BN officials – their shadows linger. Facebook Malaysians are today expressing their disgust by blacking out their profile pictures. It’s not activism Argentina or Bolivia style, exactly, but then it’s very hot here today. Others are calling for President Obama to come to Malaysia’s rescue.

It is an entirely understandable lament. Despite broken election promises (e.g. failure to dissolve that grizzled fragment of Hell on Earth known as Guantanamo) the Black President remains the most powerful icon of democratic power on the planet. Skeptics are quick to point out Obama’s many u-turns, swerves and dips, but his image continues to soar. He is a Good Man doing his best within a corrupt system. He is playing their game. If he didn’t he’d be assassinated. Or his family would. He sees the way forward for America and has the unenviable task of transmitting some tough truths to the Gung Ho nation. And so on and so forth. Arguments you will have heard in discussion with friends and relatives already.

I rather like Obama. I look a bit like Obama. To the political skeptic, the reader of indie news feeds on the internet, liking Obama is woefully – dangerously – naive. It is to labour in the black sleep of illusion. The skeptics might goad me into a fact fight. Leftie healthcare versus American involvement in Syria perhaps. But I find myself less and less interested in the facts. Obama did this, signed that, said he’d do this and then didn’t. Rather than political heat, I prefer the shade of my Obama icon.

It is an act of what Carlos Castaneda called controlled folly. I know that Obama could be torn down – not unlike those statues of Saddam Hussein – yet I choose to prefer that he isn’t. Why? Energetically speaking it is preferable that he’s there. For now. For millions of people he is a projection of hope. Are we asleep, deluded, suckered by the telly? No we’re not. I’ll wager that – to varying degrees consciously – we’ve weighed up fact versus feeling and decided to keep the Obama figure on the inner altar. It feels better. Maybe we just like his face. Otherwise what? Obviously it wasn’t Mitt Romney.

Nor is it the ‘truth’ that all of it is illusion. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Democracy. How do we feel pulling up the flagstones and watching the quicksand squirming beneath? Anxious? Depressed? Cynical? At the very least deeply skeptical in anything like the Goodness of Humanity or a Divine Plan or Evolution out of the eternal human condition of – well – damnation really, isn’t it? How’s that feel?

Umum, Najib, Anwar, Cameron

Non-illusions: Umum, Najib, Anwar, Cameron

Of course, there are times when we must turn from our smiling icon – be it Buddha, Ganesha or Obama – and face the facts. From time to time we must stare into the Abyss of Not What We Believe. We must have our faces pushed into the dirt. The bubble bursts. We see the illusion for what it is and are no longer – can no longer be – illuded by it. An illusion is only an illusion when it is not an illusion. Amongst many benefits, the process of disillusionment elevates one beyond the reaches of duff illusions like Malaysian Prime Minsiter Najib, rival Anwar Ibrahim, or for that matter British Prime Minister David Cameron. Maybe we just don’t like their faces.

Strip by strip the onion is peeled. (I read earlier that onions have more genes than humans.) Ultimately we become our own icon. Or rather, we realise that the blackness, presidentness, earthiness, goodness, fairness and love we project onto the icon is our own. In the final election, we vote Inner Obama. In my case the campaign seems to be going well. Apparently I look like him.

Antimatters

250px-Signorelli-Antichrist_and_the_devilCatching myself recently launching half-baked Facebook threads  with provocative mentions of “the Antichrist.” I’d better expand.

In traditional Christian belief, Jesus the Messiah appears in his Second Coming to earth, to face the emergence of the Antichrist figure.
[Wikipedia]

Christianity decries the Antichrist as a false prophet – the Devil’s advocate  depicted in Revelations 13 and the famous painting by Signorelli. I am not concerned here with identifying this man as Dick Cheney, the Pope, or Binyamin Netanyahu, but with something more in line with Gnostic ideas:

The only one of the late 1st/early 2nd Century Apostolic Fathers to use the term is Polycarp (ca. 69 – ca. 155) who warned the Philippians that everyone who preached false doctrine was an antichrist.[13] His use of the term Antichrist follows that of the New Testament in not identifying a single personal Antichrist, but a class of people.
[Ibid.]

But let’s rewind. In the beginning was the Word, and the word was Om. Which is not a word in the same way ‘antichrist’ is a word, but the transcription of a sound – according to the vedas, the master sound that contains all others just as white light contains all the colours of the rainbow (and beyond). Om – whose correct pronunciation moves from a to o – is the alpha and omega of Mantra.

Whereas ordinary language bundles phonemes into words and sentences, the sounds of Mantra are manifestations of ultimate reality, which is beyond (and behind) ordinary human cognition – and therefore the perennial project of human endeavour. To see it, touch it, understand it. The Tower of Babel is perhaps the most famous fable of the outcome of that endeavour. The Tower touches the heavens and God strikes it down, its builders stricken with the bewildering affliction of tongues (plural). We fall from the unified language of Mantra, the stuff of which the world is made, into the babble of ordinary tongue.

shmnc-cch-box150Mantra, like the ayahauasqero’s icaros (not to be confused with Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, though we may well admit that myth here), have creative power. They are utterable vibrations that connect directly with the stuff of the universe. Shipibo textile patterns – to name one form I am familiar with, there are many others – are maps of such vibrations. If you prefer, we can say visualisations of the sounds, but this allows the idea that the patterns are creative interpretations of the sounds, which they are not. There is a science connecting sound and pattern. Different people produce the same sounds from a particular pattern.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that the universe is made of sound. Sound is energy, which we know from Einstein to bear a linear relationship with mass, that fundamental property of the material world. Matter is thick energy, if you like. Certain sounds are harmonious, others are unsettling or enervating. Certain notes played together on a piano sound strong (yang) or mysterious (yin). Others sound dischordant. If you are struggling with the idea of the universe being made of sound, ask yourself – Why do nice chords sound nice?

Perhaps you will say that ‘nice’ is psychological, a property of the mind, which is at the end of the day explainable with recourse to neurons and neurotransmitters, the transmission of electrons along myelin molecules and so on and so forth. In that case you would also say that consciousness, though science is not yet able to do it, is also explainable as atoms and electrons – and if need arises as quarks and charms and so on.

It seems strange in this postmodern, quantum – or even post-quantum – day to find reductionism so deeply entrenched. Anything that cannot be reduced to the theories of particle physics – God, for instance –  is often met with scoffing, sarcasm, cries to wake up. Anything that cannot be reduced to particle physics is seen as delusion. Consciousness is a sort of moot point, as it is taken on faith that one day it too will be seen to be a matter of atoms and electrons. This scientific faith is seen as better than spiritual faith, because science proceeds by hypothesis and repeatable experiment.

To be sure, spirituality has taken a bashing thanks in equal measure to the rantings of generally poor, uneducated and deceived people and the rich, educated and carefully selective eye of the television camera. It is easy to go from the irrationality of burning copies of the Quran or effigies of Barack Obama to the irrationality of “everything those people stand for.” Watching scenes of chaos following publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, or the refusal of protestants in Northern Ireland to lower the Union Jack for a day, we feel compelled to knock some sense into people.

350px-Confusion_of_TonguesBut lets rewind. In the Beginning was the Word, then there was the Fall – from Eden, of the Tower of the Babel. These two are very closely related, if not one and the same. Note, by the way, the paradox already encoded in ‘In the Beginning was Om’ – in the Alpha was Omega. The Fall happened because of Identification. Adam and Eve suddenly knew who they were. Adam knew the Names of Things. The Fall from Mantra into language takes place because of Identification.

Sounds produced are no longer of the same sonic substance as the universe itself but lie at a remove. The sounds now represent or encode. They require interpretation, which, if the sounds are to constitute communication requires the kind of convention Wittgenstein called a Language Game. I can crack a joke with you. You can tell me the world is made of quarks and charms. Well. You can try, but whether or not I buy it is a matter of language games. Do I play the same ones as you?

I don’t play the Consciousness Explained game. Because consciousness cannot be explained. (What does it actually mean to explain something anyway? But that’s another article.) The big difference between esoteric thinking and reductionist-materialist thinking is this:

  • Esoteric: consciousness is itself a fundamental property, like gravity or electromagnetic forces
  • Materialist: consciousness reduces to atoms and electrons.

Just as white light contains all the colours of the rainbow, so Om contains all the sounds of the universe. So far that is a description – a language game I am inviting you to play. So far you’ll either buy it or you won’t. Hopefully, when I add that those sounds of the universe are themselves aware – yes, conscious! – the game suddenly sounds more interesting.

You see – or should that be hear – this sonic stuff of the universe I’ve been talking about transcends the dualism of consciousness (in here) and matter (out there). It’s both a huge idea, and at the same time something as familiar as music. Subjective energies – moods, emotions, feelings – correspond to such objective wave-making as the plucking of a string or the beating of a drum.

The world is not as out there as we think.
[Carlos Castaneda]

In other words, the Subjective should not be relegated to mere epiphenomena – the pretty and pretty pointless patterns created by the firing of neurons – but should be carefully considered as our prima facie reality. Of course, as everyone knows, appearances can be deceptive. Learning happens when we discover we have been deceived, and – ideally – how we have been deceived. We move on with an improved idea about the world.

The problem for those who identify with the Consciousness Explained game of quarks and charms and so on, is that quarks and charms bear no relation whatsoever to ordinary human existence. They quite literally do not enter the frame. Indeed, highly specialised apparatus and conditions are necessary in order to observe events interpreted as phenomena of these invisible elements. Atoms and electrons are useful constructs for materials scientists. The rest of us need only observe that matter is made up – to the vast proportion – of empty space.

But the deniers of astrology and numerology and spirit and god and all the rest are seldom so rational. Even Richard Dawkins, the arch-materialist, fails to make the simple conceptual shift that awareness/consciousness is not phenomenon but noumenon. There is an old fashioned English word ‘nouse’ meaning ‘wits’. The matter is emotive because there is identification. To be precise: identification with the reductiveness of consciousness. Which is identification with the lying-at-a-remove of the Fallen. Identification with the husks of Babel.

Identifying oneself with something reducible to atoms and electrons is thus to play a game in which either everything – including consciousness and God – is similarly reducible or does not exist. Recruitment into this game is the function of the Antichrist – the Devil’s Advocate who arrives to explain Creation away as atoms and electrons. According to Biblical prophecy, the Reign of the Antichrist – interpreted successively in recent times as communism, capitalism, the New World Order – is a necessary precursor to the End of the World and the Second Coming.

In other words, perhaps the deathwish of identification with the material is necessary for human beings to realise the existence of spirit.

That said, what am I doing trying to rumble the mission of the Antichrist?

 

Humans owned by sheep

I was googling around looking for short video on basic animal survival needs to spice up a presentation on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and came across this video of a group of sheep concerned for an injured bird.

The video speaks for itself.

This post is about neither sheep nor seagulls. We read a lot about the wonders of the internet fostering healthy and even dictator-toppling debate and discussion. But there’s another side to it. Anyone who uses youtube, for example, will be familiar with the obligatory trail of increasingly pointless and abusive eye-for-an-eye comment that follows. Which is what caught my eye here. For sure, an ahhh! video in the best sense, yet even here it takes only a few scans of the eye before we’re back in the…well where are we back in…maybe normally you’d say ‘the jungle’ but that doesn’t seem right here.

Perhaps David Icke’s famous term ‘sheople’ needs political correctness reviewed…

 

Screen shot of sheep video comments pt 1

Screen shot of sheep video comments pt 2

 

And so on, to the tune of 1074 comments. Perhaps not all of them are daft. I rather like the idea that one sheep is uttering a prayer.

On the same page, a related video caught my eye.

Kid gets owned by sheep

What’s that? Yes it’s just an image, a screenshot. What? Where’s the video? You wanna go and watch clips exploiting kids and animals you can go to youtube. No I don’t want to see a seagull getting owned by a snake. What? How old am I? How old are you? Come on then you f*@£….