Meaning and Morality in Modernity – Manchester Cathedral is a public lecture tomorrow night by my good friend and brother and all round marvellous chap, Mr Andrew Brower Latz. If you’re in town, should be a great night out for your brain. Follow Andy’s blog “beyond unknowing” here, or I’ll get yer.
Yeah and merry Christmas, even though it isn’t for about a month and there are only 12 months in a year and Christmas happens every year. The zeitghost has decided it’s Christmas NOW and there’s nothing you can do about it.
My Mum asked me last night if there was anything else I wanted for Christmas “apart from books”. I’m forced to ask myself, what else is there? A wooly jumper? A red nosed reindeer? An open fire on which to roast my chestnuts?
We tumble and wink over the sinking sink, the disease displeased by the bee’s knees.
With a gasp of gas the map unfolds at the seems and is not what it seems.
Delinquent, belligerent and buoyant on a salty sea of opportunity,
whiskily whisper the mystery of history.
This is how we whisk the quickest stick on the brink.
This is how stickily stick the sickly quick flick on the blick.
The pajama farmers are in the Bahamas!
And there is no go
no show to go to
We are the ghosts who go to the show, no go,
the ghosts who go
the ghosts who go to the show,
Oh woe is the No Go Show
for whom there is no show!
No show must go on
There is never any show.
The ghosts will always go away, oh no
leaving you in the fog,
How do you show what will not go?
This is how you show the dumbshow.
Dumb bum picking on the glum mum.
This is how.
This is now.
This is now the show
The shoe of shoes
The news of the new
The world wide new blue moon show
Ho Hah He Ha Ha Ho!
These days, I make every possible effort to ignore “the news” as much as I can. I have my reasons for this, and I imagine in their totality they are inconsistent – what set of beliefs is not? – but in summary, it’s because I can no longer tell the difference between the news and “The News”. What is called “The News”, mediated to us by “The Media” (an equally amorphous, chaotic monstrosity which, like every universe, has no circumference and no centre) is a sempiternal metanarrative of infinite perspectives, somehow unified into a single perspective, which in turn is somehow no perspective at all: a god watching an infinite feedback video loop of himself blinding himself, forever, for no reason, lol. Guy Debord puts it so much better, as he almost always does: “it is the sun that never sets on the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory”. If “The News” bares any relation at all to the Truth (not, note, “The Truth”) then it is only either by coincidence or by Providence.
Anyhoo ha he, certain stories unavoidably infiltrate my space from time to spacetime. The most recent of these concerns Facebook’s decision not to remove video clips of real beheadings when users, for whatever reason, choose to post them, and the inevitable inanities that proceeded from the prime minister’s piehole by way of response. Naturally, criticising Facebook by saying some words is about as effective as a bluebottle trying to prevent the collapse of communism by landing on David Hasselhoff’s microphone while he lip syncs atop a crumbling Berlin Wall but it has been quite some time now since we had a prime minister capable of the level of independent thought required to realise this. (The fact that Facebook later reversed its decision is, of course, sad, but totally irrelevant).
Nevertheless, the criticism of Facebook for its decision was negative across the board. Captain Cameron called it “irresponsible” (a word he has also used to describe public sector strikes, the previous government’s addition to the national debt and David Miliband, which goes to show the level of nuance in his thoughts on issues of sadistic voyeurism, censorship and public execution). The Telegraph called it “a contribution to the brutalisation of the world”, which is a slightly more inventive use of words, at least, and almost a coherent one (in the sense that by the same logic, reporting about a contribution to the brutalisation of the world is itself a contribution to the brutalisation of the world. What’s more, farting while piloting a jumbo jet is a “contribution” to noise pollution). The Huffington Post huffed and thusly puffed: “The best place for us to…learn more about these atrocities [beheadings] is on news sites or blogs, where this kind of content is surrounded by commentary, background reporting and context that helps our understanding of it.” To this I’m inclined to wonder if there really could be a “best” place to learn about such things. What else do we need to know about beheadings other than that sometimes they happen, which we already know; and thus what difference could context possibly make? By a strange coincidence, the Huffington Post is a news site or blog, so it isn’t too surprising that they’re in favour of people reading news sites or blogs.
My position on the subject is as follows. People having their heads chopped off is bad, in any context. I’d even go so far as to say that people probably have an inalienable not to have their heads chopped off, and definitely not without their consent. The existence of video footage of people having their heads chopped off, however, does not even fall into the spheres of good and bad. It just is. It is, possibly, questionable as to whether a virtuous human being would want to watch video footage of a fellow human being’s decapitation, unless such a person were so one-dimensionally stupid as not to be able to understand what a decapitation was by any other means than directly witnessing one (in which case we could hardly say that a person, incapable as he was of abstract thought, was capable of virtue) but this is hardly the point. The point is not the relative availability of real-life decapitation videos on Facebook or anywhere else; the point is not even the existence of real-life decapitation videos. The point is that sometimes some people decapitate other people and that this, as I think we’re already in agreement upon, is bad. I think we also agree that the world would be a better place if decapitation didn’t really happen at all; and that in such world, people wouldn’t film real decapitations either, or share them on Facebook, because they wouldn’t exist, and it’s hard to share something on Facebook that doesn’t exist. But does it follow from this that the availability of real-life decapitation videos is bad? Does it follow that watching them is bad? Does being able to find such things online more easily than one would be able to otherwise “contribute to the brutalisation of the world”, to use the Telegraph’s phrase? No. This is the same logic used by those who argue that pornography promotes rape or that violent entertainment promotes violent behaviour The same sort of condescending types you might find writing in the Telegraph or the Huffington Post, in other words.
The issue is simply one of censorship and nothing more. My opinion on the subject of censorship is that censorship is bad. If decapitations happen, which they do, then it is probably better that those who are inclined to share videos of them on Facebook are able to do so, so that those who would be inclined to do something about the occurrence of such things might thereby be more motivated to do so. It is possible, as you may be aware, to post an item to Facebook accompanied by your own comment on the item you are posting. For example, “OMG check out this video of someone having their head chopped off! People having their heads chopped off is bad IMHO. Click ‘like’ if you agree”. And as we all know, clicking ‘like’ on a Facebook post in promotion of a good cause is the only thing that really changes anything. What makes social media so much better than traditional media is precisely the fact that it isn’t really media. It is unmediated, immediate, information. Information as opposed to “Information”. The news as opposed to “the News”. Of course, it is most likely on the brink of assimilation into the Spectacle as a whole, which is all the more reason to enjoy its unmediated freedom while it lasts.
Last Saturday morning I met a man who insisted he had the power of flight. ”Just so we’re clear”, he said to me, “I mean the super-human power of flight. Of flying unaided by any machinery or other trickery”. For a man I had only just met, it seemed unduly important to him that I understand and believe everything he said. It seemed prudent on my part to humour him, so we sat together for a while in silence and shared a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. The cool autumn breeze swirled around our knees. The bus was late again.
“You see”, said my new friend, licking his salty fingers with exuberance, “I can fly. I really can. In fact, I’m flying now, and so are you”. I shuffled, awkwardly. I had no wish either to offend this man or to reinforce his delusion.
“Ah” I said, relieved. ”If that’s what you mean by flying, then I am with you. We are all, in our own way, “flying”.
“That isn’t what I mean all”, said the man, fixing his stare into the distance. “I don’t mean “flying” in any metaphorical sense. I mean it quite literally. We are all, each one of us, flying”.
I had never met a man so determined, so utterly convinced of a different realtiy and so desperate to share it with others, with everyone else, who just couldn’t see what he saw. I felt terrible pity for him. I listened in awe.
“Then how are we flying?” I asked. “Why can’t we all see what you see? Why isn’t it obvious, if it’s so important?”
“The reality I see is so near at hand that it is almost too obvious to see at all. But I assure you it is real. It is closer to your mind than the images on your retina. It is visible behind closed eyes, and in the shadows. It is heard in the echoes and the stillness of the night. It is as vast as the universe, and it is as tiny as a molecule. As real as a gas, or a half-remembered dream”.
“I want to see what you see”, I said. “Show me how to see”.
“Close your eyes”, he said. “Stop all thought”.
And I did.
And I saw.
Time doubles in size
Fish swim in the sky, fish swim in your eyes.
Time flies. Nice try!
Marmite miles, Maltesers smile like crocodiles or francophiles
Happy hopeless hippy cries
in the caravan park into the 10 force gale on a lonely night in November into the storm with paper tears in his eyes
He reads the mind of the universe. It is thinking of eternal nothingness, and so he misses the point.