Thursday, April 1, 2077
Note that said icon thingy was - & some might argue still is & always has been - my true motivation for this blog ... because I disliked seeing a generic default blob beside my comments.
Now this blog is named after my 1990s radio show, the crusty vehicle of yore via which I exposed entire scores of Lotuslanders & sundry BCians/N.Washingtonians to the likes of Evil Twang, nomeansno, Terror Of Tiny Town, ten days late, Wretched Ethyl, Little Fyodor, cranes, Frank Zappa, Throbbing Gristle, perfume tree, ZILLATRON, Tankhog, Mudhoney, The Monoxides, Dayglo Abortions, Nina Hagen, Submission Hold, Aging Youth Gang, The Residents, Einsturzende Neubauten, DSK & whatever else I could get my little tentacles on through the wee hours.
6/17/2014: NEVER 4GET
Monday, September 5, 2022
Looking At Alienation
In contemporary North American society, alienation is said to be a crisis which is unique to our time & place. Certainly no other period in history has known such awareness of alienation as our own. This essay will attempt to show some of the reasons behind alienation, its sources, & the way in which it is manifested in society.
When considering the problem of alienation, it may be more easily dealt with if it can be subdivided into particular types of alienation, which are distinguished by their scope or sphere of influence, their source or their intensity. Here “alienation” is to be understood in a general sense, as an individual’s sense of aloneness, helplessness or meaninglessness in relation to their self &/or society. The types of alienation to be dealt with will be either individual or societal ( shared in common by most or all members of society ), abstract or concrete, or mild or chronic in nature.
To begin with, some very concrete alienation has to exist in humanity & society by their very nature. Human beings, while usually sharing some degree of empathy, are not innately telepathic; a person’s own thoughts & ideas are alien to all the rest of society unless they are outwardly communicated via language. In one sense this is not actual alienation at all, but human privacy, which is considered socially “sacred.” Modern Western society, as well, is not suited to a shared communal lifestyle. Different families, or even members of the same family, do not usually share living quarters, food, & other commodities all their lives, as in past communal-based or extended-family-based societies. In this sense, every building in a modern city is a bastion of alienation. These facts, then, are the “core” of alienation in Western society.
Historically, the trend toward alienation has been facilitated by both abstract & concrete factors. One example of the former is the decline of organized religion in the past century. The sharing of a common ethic, the simple presence of the church as a place of refuge, the reassurance of a common mythology with which all members of the church could empathize, & the church as a social meeting-place — all these have been steadily lost to secularism. Industry has supplanted deity as the centre of society; the results of this revolution are stll not yet fully known. But it is known that while God is considered to be all-knowing & all-loving, the popular image of industry is quite the opposite: it is seen as almost an entity in itself, separate from the humanity which created it, as ultimately malevolent & totalitarian ( witness the singular lack of any entertainment or literature in which robots, for example, are treated as passive or benign), & as creating as many problems as solutions, if not more.
Industry relies heavily on the sciences to facilitate its progression. Some of the same factors which assist scientific innovation in modern society also are sources of abstract, and in some cases quite chronic, alienation. Firstly, the emphasis on rationality — rather than emotionalism — tends to limit feelings of fellowship among members of society. Being gregarious, or having a large number of social contacts, is simply not rational. As well, the modern focus on rationality is more than a choice over emotionalism: it also prevails at emotionalism’s expense — the two are almost always mutually exclusive.
Another factor which tends to promote both science & alienation is the principle of individualism or “the moral preference for the dictates of individual conscience.” (Barber, 1970: 99) But in this case, at least, caution must be taken before attributing individualism to a single source, or categorizing it as a cause or effect. The modern capitalistic system may encourage individualism for example by presenting charismatic or enigmatic “individualists” as heroic figures in the mass media. The alternative viewpoint is that such encouragement of individualism may only reflect the public’s genuine empathy or desire for such figures. Consumerism is also well-suited to individualism, & vice versa — yet they may well be neither causes nor effects of each other. An individual’s own conscience is, at best, a poor substitute for the mass of cross-generational social ethics which formerly served as the foundation of most people’s “moral preference.” The “moral vacuum” which results is “filled” by alienation.
Marxist theory contends that capitalism — the dominant school of political & economic thought in modern Western culture — creates alienation by its very nature. Once a worker is separated from the products of his or her own labour, he or she loses control over either the labour or its products. Certainly this is true in the case of the assembly-line workers who perform one task repetitiously, & who cannot act to change their situation in any way. But other aspects of capitalist society also create alienation in many other ways.
Capitalism traditionally fosters competition while subordinating or suppressing co-operation. The desire to obtain a competitive “edge” over one’s opponents is alienating; the seriousness with which competition takes place makes association with “the enemy” out of the question. A high incidence of violent crime, & of stress-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, are characteristic of modern Western society — in stark contrast to more open, less competitive societies such as the aboriginal population of New Guinea or Australia, where such problems are virtually unknown. This is competitive society at its deadliest extreme, & the very fear of it is itself a source of alienation; it also creates further tension & stress, in a vicious circle.
Capitalism also creates a surplus of goods out of all proportion to foreseeable needs. Consumerism, mentioned earlier, is another source of alienation which this situation gives rise to. The modern trend away from spiritualism, in such forms as Catholicism & Deism, to materialism in the form of utilitarianism or “the pleasure principle,” is, again, both a “disease” in itself & a “symptom” of the ascent of materialism. As a source of alienation, materialism is central in Western society. On the concrete & immediate level, materialism alienates by trying to replace social human interaction with purely physical consumption. Time spent “enjoying” consumer goods cannot be spent with other people; when people do get together, their only shared activity is often consumption. As consumerism becomes increasingly prevalent, the ability of true socialization is gradually surrendered to the “worship” of the material for its own sake. Unfortunately, humans have a habit of remembering beyond their years — or collecting history — & the loss of past collective spiritualism is well-known to all literate, intelligent people. Finally, consumerism causes a gradual deadening of sensuality in its positive sense, as the degree of consumption must gradually increase to meet the same expectations of “thrills” — be it of drugs, food, entertainment or sheer ostentation — until satisfaction, as it has been equated with consumption, becomes impossible. This sense of dissatisfaction is in itself a concrete, chronic & terribly personal form of alienation.
The vast array of technology upon which capitalism relies for the production of surplus is itself a source — & a manifestation — of alienation. Technology has created a vast body of societal “dead air space” by liberating people from their labour to a degree never before known.to humanity. At the same time it has offered no rigid guides whatsoever as to how this sudden “time surplus” should best be used. A new & unique industry has sprung up in the past century to accommodate our newest need: the “leisure industry.”
It is perhaps best to break this industry, in its modern form, into four successive stages: contemplative, interactive, reactive, & sedative. The sudden & dramatic rise of the “dime-store novel” in the late 19th Century is indicative of the contemplative type of leisure activity: it allows the “player” to “dream themself into” a suggested ideal ( or dramatic ) situation. The sudden rise of board games, precipitated by Parker Brothers’ development of “Monopoly” circa 1935, is interactive play as a response to the Great Depression; such games, by their realism & high requirement of involvement, rapidly draw the player into an escapist or role-playing situation. The early electronic games & sophisticated puzzles which began appearing after 1960 are examples of reactive “play” — in which one is required to perform problem-solving or intuitive acts for the reward (“victory”). The present (post-1980) stage of the leisure industry is best described as sedative: video-game graphics cause highly limited, rapid, hand-eye reactions to moving or pulsing light imagery — which gradually produces a nearly hypnotized reaction from the “player” as the game & its score take an increasing significance in his or her mind. This succession of varieties of “play” reflects aspects of society, & trends within it, which have increasingly alienated people from their environment, other human beings, & themselves. The pulp fiction of the early stage of the “time surplus” was a continuation, for the most part, of the tradition of literature which had until then been available only to nobility & the “idle rich” ( albeit in a popularized & bastardized form). The video games of the current day are, by contrast, new, impersonal, non-reusable “entertainment” which is also habit-forming — but in a far more pervasive sense. The next stage of this industry is still a mystery, but it will likely be even more hypnotic, less social _ & more irresistible.
even the proximity of other people — especially in urban, metropolitan
environments — is itself a perpetual source of alienation. This is due
to a reaction to the innate ability of human beings to recognize other
human faces. Limitations of human memory — & social tolerance — mean
that most people can only recognize about a thousand faces — &
within that “crowd” most form bonds of close friendship with only about
one or two dozen people. Yet any single city-dweller comes into contact
with literally tens of thousands of faces every day. As a form of
psychic “defense mechanism” a person routinely “screens” or “shuts off”
all the faces of the strangers they meet. The awareness that virtually
all people in a crowd are also “
shutting off” one’s self is the true source of urban alienation in its most concrete, although relatively mild, form; it is the situation in which one can truly feel “alone in the crowd” — & it is inescapable as long as society demands that large numbers of people live in close proximity on a daily basis.
Politics, Alienation & Youth
“Tyranny is a habit. In the end it becomes a disease. The best man in the world becomes indistinguishable from a wild beast.”
— Fyodor Dostoevski
The existence of many kinds of alienation is a social fact; no reasonable observer of Western culture can deny it. The government, with its mandate to serve the society which it controls, has a responsibility to recognize alienation & attempt to combat it. Yet government remains inactive in this regard, & will in all likelihood continue to do so, because the state has a vested interest in maintaining -at least up to a certain point — the trends which have kept alienation alive in our society.
The first real responsibility of a political party is not to its nation or electorate, but itself; more specifically, it tends to do whatever is within its means — & the guidelines of its politics — to retain as much power as it can, for as long as possible. In a democracy, the elected party generally “rewards” its major supporters, both overtly & covertly. Thus the “party faithful” feel quite justified in having voted for “the winning team.” The supporters of the opposition, on the other hand, feel cheated & ( politically ) alienated. In purely strategic terms, it is expedient to have a societal system where alienation plays an important role. Feelings of alienation can be capitalized on by a strong, centralized government to erode even further all official opposition.
The only other external threat which a state may face is from radical & revolutionary groups. In this case, government cannot usually take any official actions or sanctions until such a group actually breaks the law, or shows palpable intentions of doing so. This is where governmental inaction actually becomes a form of action. Radical groups, left unharassed, generally become restless & either commit illegal acts, or lose their sense of self-worth, since the state no longer seems to “care about” them. In matters of national issues or controversies, too, the state knows “how not to get the job done” — it is aware that the mass media, the main source of information for citizens of an industrialized nation, has its own interests at stake as well, & will not follow up stories unless there is fresh “dirt” to report. In this fashion, the state alienates itself from the people, for its own purposes.
Internally, also, the government has much to gain by alienating its own bureaucrats & civil servants. The management of state becomes increasingly compartmentalized as the size of its staff increases; the thoroughness with which it attempts to set guidelines for every aspect of its employees’ working lives also increases in proportion to its size. An excellent example of this is Canada’s postal system, which began as little more than a commercial courier service, & is now a Crown Corporation with thousands of staff members, & has become regulated to the degree of trying to determine how many seconds it should take a mail carrier to deliver mail at two consecutive households. Obviously, such over-regulation is a certain source of discontent & alienation both for those who must work in such a corporation, & for the people it is supposed to be serving.
Young people today are forced to enter & participate in what is quite likely the most totally alienating society in history. The vast space of leisure time, which people of earlier times would have been amazed at, they see as quite normal — as they do many other innovations of Western technology. However, as William Faunce points out in his “Problems of an Industrial Society,”
“Although it seems obvious that we are becoming an increasingly leisure-oriented society, it is not nearly so apparent that we should become so.” (1968: 83)
Faunce suggests that people use their spare time in altruistic pursuits, which would benefit society as a whole; yet a youth culture raised on a utilitarian “ethic of self” fails to see the benefits of such actions. Often young people are criticized for their inaction to reduce their own despair & alienation — but like the technological “miracles” which surround them, they see these conditions, too, as “normal.”
“Today, nowhere in the world are there elders who know what their children know. … In the past there were always some elders who knew more than any children in terms of their experience of having grown up in a cultural system. Today there are none. It is not only that parents are no longer guides, but that there are no guides…” (Mead, 1970: 60–61)
The 20thCentury is the age of “nuclear alienation” — the simple threat of an almost spontaneous war, with no bounds or limits, has created the ultimate alienation: security, in any real sense of the word, has ceased to exist. Gone with it are many of the ideals & concepts which might otherwise easily turn the word “alienation” into a joke — ideals such as a “Brotherhood of Man” in world peace, or a true Utopia — & concepts like “a return to the Good Old Days” or “a noble war for a just cause.” This form of alienation is, in the writer’s opinion, by far the most horrifying of any of the types discussed in this essay.
This short examination of alienation has shown that it takes on many forms in Western society, may of them confusing, & seemingly all in a state of flux. Many factors that serve to alienate people have been omitted; the nature of the rise of television, for example, is worthy of an essay in & of itself. Despite the limitations of the above work, it is hoped that it has at least served to invite the reader to carefully consider their own experiences with alienation in a fresh light. As our millennium draws to a close, alienation deserves to receive closer attention as a dangerous source of anti-social tendencies which a people as powerful as ourselves can ill afford to let grow unchecked — for alienation is not a “social novelty” at all, & our museums hold the physical evidence to prove it. A human race isolated in concrete & glass by its own fear is no better off in spirit than it was in caves.
Afterword: “A Disclaimer”
This essay does not propose any solutions to the multi-faceted dilemma of modern alienation, but merely examines it on a general & superficial level. This is not meant to suggest that no such solutions exist, & that we are bound headlong on a one-way road to total isolationism, hedonistic terrorism, & “programmed life” a la “Brave New World.” A species of animal which is intelligent enough to get itself into a bind as deep as ours must surely be at least intelligent enough to get tiself right back out again.
Whether we actually do so is up to us.
Barber, Bernard, 1970, “Science and the Social Order.” Toronto: Collier
Faunce, William A, 1968, “Problems of an Industrial Society.” Toronto: McGraw-Hill
Mead, Margaret, 1970, “Culture and Commitment — a Study of the Generation Gap.” New York: Doubleday
Mosca, Gaetano, 1939, “The Ruling Class.” New York: McGraw-Hill
Russell. Bertrand, 1963, “Authority and the Individual.” Boston: Beacon
*** 2022 Postscript ***
While I will forever cringe at the hokey tone & the Eurocentric & obsolete references to “Western” culture, this beast I smashed out verbatim to make a paper deadline still stands the test of time better than expected, & also includes my first real stab at a theory — to elucidate ludic evolution from circa 1880–1987.
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Thursday, August 4, 2022
these eyes bright w/ hope & love
wait for another
where years burn their vigils yet i
look upon another
every spark of a lusty season comes
risen for another
plowing under senses in the blind wave
seeking for another
always & again left in the rain
hope upon another
i yet will fall cold alone & raging
never for another
but only for you:
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
That for any new major insight to be added to Standard Model development of Quantum Field Theory, science will first need to engineer & acquire a new language coded specifically to such insight - one whose syntax, semantics & terminology render it both superior as a container/explainer for QFT proper, & compatible w/ generating apt additional input. The counter that the maths involved are themselves that language is at best hubris & at worst parlous hyperbole: a massive exponential rise in computing speed & power w/ which to exploit them, along w/ literal legions of bold brainiacs all attacking the known gaps in the model for decades on end, has been the herald of precisely zero new major elements to add to QFT.
If it is correct, no new major insight in QFT is forthcoming for the indefinite future - or even possible, no matter how many man-hours or equations are thrown at it. It would thus also likely be an essential prerequisite to any potential union of QFT w/ Einsteinian Relativity.
Saturday, July 2, 2022
That human neural networks enhance net performance by using organic ambient changes in geometry or differential of ionic ratio/charge in adjacent non-sentient tissues ( blood, fat, glia, etc.) as a complementary signal processing system. If true, it should predict outsized or unaccountably absent effects from site-specific injury & pathology - & that measured peak mental acuity will exceed the demonstrable neuronal capacity used to reach it.
Thursday, May 5, 2022
2004 was when I threw down the fingerless punk gauntlet: see if I have what it takes to force my slimy skull-walnut to emit an apt radical novelty.
Either novel or radical are a cool calm summer breeze - while apt is a brutal beast that plays poorly with the others in the rare event when it ever does at all.
Geadankenspieling has been one of my life's keenest joys - my little mutant pet that's totally free to play, in a proverbial void that lets me score as many ideas as I can, & has the personal potential for some utterly harrowing IRL results depending on what I come up with & whose chain it yanks.
Those Trifectas are the profane Grail, but there's plenty to chew on among the sloppy apocrypha, & to spare. One result was nothing but the intellectual equivalent of a tantrum, noting the tragic ongoing omission of a prime historical revolution: the shift toward female s3x selection first indicated by Chivalric Code & alleged all-girl "Courts Of Love" in medieval Europe. Another a cosmic mega-kludge that makes a lovely sibling to one at least partly inspired by the Susskind & t'Hooft mega-hologram model that's arguably FAR WEIRDER than mine.
Some synaptic byproduct even got frisky enough to inspire a "Dead Letter File" metagame of its own!
I also learned that I'm the kind of sick pervert heathen that can drop a one minute sermon!
The most recent is Q.L.O. - which came with 2 highly evocative instances that may or may not be proofs. Let posterity - or infamy - give someone who can tell the difference the call says I, & Alfred E. Neuman take the hindmost.
Doubt any subsequent treats can be siphoned out of all this dying fatty gray mucilage this late in the farce - but then, I always do...
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Proposing not only that what we refer to as meaning is a species of game that minds play w/ themselves to explain what is going on or why, but that said crazy Mind Calvinball can then be elucidated &/or upgraded by being mediated via the berserk conniptions of QFT such as decoherence, tunneling or entrained particle pairing (to name but a few)?
Might be worth a gamble, if only for the larks!
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
all of these days
eating me raw
flaw by bloody flaw
win lose or draw
all these centuries
burning me away
rend peel & flay
the devil i say
none of these failures
shall so much as slow me down
for i'm such a perfect clown
i'll dance until i drown
the rise & fall of us all
history is a fickle bitch
she loves to pull a bait-&-switch
in the smoking rubble we're sure we've got her
as we race to the next farce even hotter
history is a crazy dame
she shuns the meek yet strangles fame
as we march to triumph & destiny's seal
she giggles - & drops a new banana peel
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
song of madness
i'm out of it i'm inside it
i'm out of it it's inside me
draw the line cross the line
erase the line
i'm still alive i'm still dying
i'm still alive death am i
the world spins the world stands still
in the beginning was the word
in the end only hissing rain
as it was it will be again
but all of this will never ever be
is this heaven's own dew
is this bitter dark blood
another utopia another nightmare
another day another daydream
does this wind have a name
does this hour have a colour
we rise singing we fall screaming
see the moon feel the sun
see the earth disappear ...
Monday, March 1, 2021
Monday, November 23, 2020
There has never been a boon without someone to take credit for it.
There has never been a blight without someone explaining it away as the "mystery" of an omniscient deity or of a dead deterministic universe.
Monday, August 10, 2020
There is no center here
and now ignorance shrinks terrified
Here is a worthy note for us all:
the curses of all children unfed
There are accidents over us
or can you not face them
There is no light here
so there is no point in turning away
Here is a lie applying to us all:
we couldn't do anything to change things
There are maniacs hunting us or
have you seen them yet
There are no terms here
as our spirits wounded shake and cry
This the trophy undiscovered:
in equal amity to grow unchained
There are monsters inside us or
are you one already
There is no edge here
and a tide pulls me harder
Here is a guess aimed at us all:
the sleepwalking is sweetest at the cliff
There is too little from us
or did you not notice
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
I promise more storms & with them more joy,
after the death o' me.
Perhaps then I won't even lay down to die,
long past the death o' me.
Days turn strange with tender new change,
after the death o' me.
Yet I'd know you word for word, someone just heard,
long past the death o' me.
See where I sail, don't you open my mail.
after the death o' me.
For it's my vague belief some might smile with relief,
upon the death o' me.
Nights wlll keep kisses for many shy misses,
after the death o' me.
My heartaches sincerely are costing us dearly,
'twill be the death o' me.