Tag Archives: Brave New World

From Barcelona to Mars: Gentrification of the Universe

“The hierarchy of the world of created things, which has its apex in the righteous man, reaches down into the abyss of the inanimate by many gradations. In this connection one particular has to be noted. This whole created world speaks not so much with the human voice as with what could be called ‘the voice of Nature.’” -Walter Benjamin (Illuminations)

cruiseship

by Guy Walker

Up along the bright cloistered avenues, where the dull pleadings of shopkeepers echo down the piss-drenched alleyways, where packs of British men dressed in uniformed khaki shorts roam like lost fat dogs, where the steaming farts of thousands of tourists choke the sparrows and limping pigeons, there is yet another enormous stained-glass church, another bar of florescent yellow blaring a song by The Offspring, and another hundred festering scabby boutiques selling jewelry and pink skirts, Hello Kitty lunch boxes, floor cleaner, toy trucks, and bottles of rum. I shove my way between a German family arguing over a dropped ice-cream cone—the dad figure wearing a paper crown from Burger King, the mother figure sobbing into a lace hankie, and the toddler squatting low and slapping the amorphous glob of vanilla with his open palm over and over again. Past the fruit vendors crammed in their narrow stores, dozens of crates of petrified fruits glaring up at me, the onions and glossy aubergines wriggling in their plastic cubbies—choose me, choose me! Past the Irish-themed pub, the right-o proper bloaks tripping over themselves. Past Tapas & Tikki. Past Subway. Starbucks. Rainbow Munchies. Porcupine Kebab. Corpse Cuisine. Soon the endless road of deli-striped canopies and air misters leave me soaked and anesthetized. I’ve walked for days, then months, and my legs are stiffening into leather-stitched tree trunks, my whole sense-experience melting into the flat eternal monotony of a cosmopolitan conveyor belt. For a moment I don’t know if I have to it takes to continue, but then I remember there still are so many more shops to see, so I lean forward and push on.

The sweating cretinous herds of tourists and vendors are multiplying by the minute, like the horrifying images of binary fission of bacterial growth, the asexual reproduction of human bodies, everyone packing in tighter and tighter, everyone shoving each other to buy paintings of sailboats, traditional döners wrapped in foil, fake Ray Bans—really, anything they can get their hands on. I’m in Barcelona. Or is it Madrid? Rome. Athens. Copenhagen. Chicago. I can’t remember. And the frank reality is that it doesn’t matter. There are no pungent visible signs that suggest where I actually am. Just one swelling body of humans, everyone white, everyone shopping, everyone so desperately content. This is Life. This is the apex of modernity, the post-Utopian shift of the culture industry. The entire world, wrapped all the way around from pole to pole is one tremendous glittering outdoor shopping mall, people extending their selfie-sticks in front of the swirling pillars of Gaudi, or the glass pyramid of the Louvre, or with Spiderman on Sunset Boulevard. Groups of young women jump up in the air, kicking their legs back as their friend takes the photo. And then they giggle. We dropped the A-bomb for endless rows of boutiques and Apple stores, to drink our foamy café crèmes under patio umbrellas. We are finally alive, finally happy, finally well-fed.

It didn’t used to be this way. Barcelona used to be very much Catalonian. Just ten years ago you could play football in every town square, drink from wine bottles in the parks, play guitar and skateboard and pick-pocket the handful of tourists with your longtime childhood friends with nose rings and black mullets. Today it’s a collection of gift shops where you can buy key chains with your name on it. Because tourism is essentially the same thing as gentrification. New York: prior to the 90’s, Manhattan was hookers, thieves, drug addicts, poverty-encrusted artists and poets, and the hunched flâneur with crooked fingers. You could pull back a door curtain while standing on the sidewalk and pay a dollar to touch a woman’s baby-gnawed tit. But Mayor Giuliani pushed everyone interesting out, and the wealthy and super wealthy decided it was cool to live where the poor people used to live and now there’s just rows of stammering neon signs and storefronts for mega-corporations, and now a 600 square foot flat is $4,000 a month. Venice Beach is self-explanatory. But everyone who grumbles about gentrification, day-dreaming and eulogizing about the glory days when you could get robbed by a heroin addict and it was somehow romantic, are your standard young upper-middle-class types. It’s why Venice Beach is so awfully boring these days—the kids who live there are good looking, but just extremely flat and uncomplicated. It’s why the art produced there consists of faces of Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin painted green—there’s an empty acheronian nostalgia for the glory days, a celibate-lust for the wandering eidolons of yesterday. I too am just another smug millennial leftist who will find an excuse to reference Kubrick films, The Brothers Karamazov, or discuss Kant’s transcendental normativity as I sip my Pinot Noir at an art opening of some linen canvases splattered in ink. We all know we’re part of the weeping cyst of our own banality. My poverty is not a real poverty, not the kind that creates anything wondrous and burning and necessary. It’s comfortable and amusing, and still somehow lets me fly to various centers of the world and get drunk over and over again, like some stammering lost version of Groundhog Day. The ever-expanding fog of global capitalism now blankets everything, and the systematized copulation of the bourgeois has conquered everything that was once naked, tragic, and beautiful.

The phenomenon of self-herding tourists is of course the result of warenfetischismus, which, as everyone knows, is German for ‘commodity fetishism,’ the theory Karl Marx proposed in Capital: Critique of Political Economy, describing the relationships of production not between people—between worker and capitalist and consumer—but rather between the money and the commodities exchanged in the market transaction. “[T]he commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this.” Marx was, in part, responding to Karl Heinrich Hermes’ religious justification of the Prussian state. Hermes (as with Hegel) argued that religion raises man “above sensuous appetites.” Wearing chainmail mittens will make you not want to masturbate, for example. Chastity belts will purify your crotch. But Marx contested that it was in fact fetishism itself—economic, political, industrial—that was “the religion of sensuous appetites.” In the same way that we stare at a screen all glazey-eyed, fantasizing that the humping naked woman is actually moaning for us, we view the inanimate object of commodity that is endlessly churning out from the capitalist machinery will somehow come to life, will somehow bring us life. It’s why shopping malls are so horrifying and manic—everyone is caught in the coma of commodity fetishism, their screamings on mute, trying to break free.

In A Companion to Marx’s Capital, David Harvey details the concept of fetishism entirely dictating the norm of our desires, fantasies, wit, emotions, and so on: “we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism.” To withdraw from all ‘revolutionary possibilities’ is to submit from independence entirely, especially that of thinking. It’s why there is always soma available in Brave New World, for every occasion, every holiday and weekend and momentary lull of sobriety, soma allows us to quickly return to the gorgeous bloom of glee.

Of course there are many who are taking opiates and soma-like substances to numb the state of all this incredible madness, but it’s the culture industry itself that allows the entire world to quiet the naked roaring animality of real-life.

Theodor Adorno’s and Max Horkheimer’s theory of the culture industry is the present culmination of commodity fetishism, the ever-present zombie of stimulation that counterfeits our desires and fantasies to adapt to its own. Samo Tomšič says the same thing in The Capitalist Unconscious: Marx and Lacan, in that Lacan’s unconscious is not the realm of the private and the irrational, but rather a place where our political and social systems are most perfectly mirrored and reproduced. The capitalist construct is not a response to our inner private desires for more stuff; instead, our relentless libidinal appetites are a result of capitalism. We never wanted the shitty sailboat painting in the first place. We never wanted the Hello Kitty lunchbox. You may enjoy that açai berry smoothie, but you’re the same ugly thing as before. The culture industry is Life now. It is the first light after winter, the forever-flowing tit of humanity. It is the sun itself, the dreamy constellations we stare up at with gaping mouths. It is the first gurgling of microbes, the spark of cell growth, the whirlwind of neutrons creating matter from virtually completely empty space.

The first U.S. cruise ship has just docked into Cuba for the first time in fifty years. Buck-toothed children with runny noses ask their mothers with heaving muffin-tops what these strange brown people are doing on the island, or why everyone only drives old cars. There is no public advertising allowed in Cuba, but ships and planes full of white people are essentially the same waddling billboard for the fetishistic ideologies. I’m interested in what Cuba will look like in 5, 10, 30 years from now. Historically, when a ship full of white people arrives to a new virginal enigmatic landmass populated by exotic brown-skinned islanders, the events that follow are less than handsome. I don’t know what’s worse: the Santa Maria landing on your shores with conquistadors who want gold and slaves and wants to convert everybody to Christianity, or a cruise ship full of Americans in plaid polo shirts sucking on lollipops wanting to experience the so-called ‘preserved authenticity’ of your culture. I once hiked to Mount Everest Base Camp, and there is an inauthentic Starbucks on the way, in a quaint little village tucked away in the Himalayas. Neon clad mountain fanatics checking their wifi connections, ordering cappuccinos with extra foam.

But today is the age of space exploration, and now, finally, space colonization. Elon Musk has continued to repeat SpaceX’s plans to colonize Mars. Mars One, an organization based in the Netherlands, plans to begin colonizing Mars by 2027. We’re torpedoing our tepid flailing bodies into the empty cold blackness, the excrescent metal tube of humanity hurling to cover the universe. And don’t get me wrong, I am enthusiastically in support of colonizing other planets, and the indelible wealth of innovation that comes with it. Our curiosity for brighter horizons and frontiers is unrelenting. But this isn’t the same as before. Our prior horizons were drearily shoved along with priests and Puritanism and their death cults of banality, forcing tribes to swear off their practices that had worked for so long before. The United States government has long supported dictators all across the world, but at the same time attempted to force its neoliberal principles everywhere. But on Mars, there is no one to conquer, no one to convert. As far as we know, we are the only ones out here, the lonely dying match in the infinity of darkness. There is no one to overcome but ourselves. Where do we go from here?

Iggy Azalea and the Death of Freedom

aeonflux

“The high pool is always steaming. What witch will rise up on the white sunset? What purple foliage will descend? …While public funds flow into fraternal holidays, a clock of pink fire strikes in the clouds.” Rimbaud

An ambrosial heaving sun made the four men sweat, standing and talking amongst themselves on the asphalt atop the Santa Monica stairs. The insignificant veins of shade cast from the many manicured palm trees did not provide any reprieve for the men, but they were strong men so they were tougher than the sun. Their shaven chests were immaculate, perfectly glistened with diamonds of sweat, their iPods velcroed around their biceps, their headphones draped around their necks like loosened neckties. Beside them, a young black guy wearing a headband was playing Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y on his boom box as loud as it would go as he hopped around on work-out cones. “Pussy, pussy, pussy” Iggy repeated. One of the four men adjusted his cock, just a useless reposition, as if to make certain it was still there. Another uncrossed his arms and then crossed them again. The man wearing Adidas striped basketball shorts cleared his throat and then said “There’s no way they’re real. No fucking way, dude. She’s a tease anyways. I’d let her suck my cock, but that’s it bro.” “I guaranfuckintee they are,” the blonde crewcut one said, “and no, I’d definitely fuck her, I’d just maybe slap her as well.” They argued like this as various libidinal types ascended the stairs, usually moderately young men and women reaching the top of the stairs and then turning back again, returning to the bottom. Everyone repeated this awful hopeless routine like Botoxed automatons, walking up and down again and again until everything was clenched and taut, until their tiny unctuous assholes pulsed in and out with stair-walking fatigue. Hundreds of people here do this every day, pacing back and forth in a way, like a Smerdyakov character lost on a displaced treadmill, kicking the modish dust back towards a desert. A tragedy of adventure, a drunken childhood that never explored a cave. In front, lined $10 million homes, all pruned and maintained by Mexicans—that’s what the owners of the houses called all of them anyways—their lawnmowers and blowers trimming everything into tidy slavish lawns, neat rose bushes that waited like old ladies sitting with clotted lipstick and heavy jewelry, geraniums tired of beauty, a few remaining bees fading away. A chihuahua barked obsessively at a Mexican man digging in the soil around a freshly planted birds-of-paradise. A woman in a purple bathrobe and perfectly combed hair and grossly thin lips opened the stained-glass front door and stepped outside. “Jeremy! Jeremy! Get back in here you adorable little monster!” And the chihuahua turned and ran into the house, and then barked again at the Mexican as the woman closed the door.

The egodystonic fuckery of our banal modern existence did not just appear out of nowhere. The utter triteness of affluent America isn’t merely the temporary prima donnian resolve of an ill-fated Big Bang, nor is it an ontological mess of countless evolutionary fuckups  .  .  .  yes, the four men standing around proud of their sweat are in some ways the horrid face of billions of years of cosmological occurrence, of various colliding supernovae and pulsars, but still, there is more complexity here. There is a demon at work, a heautontimoroumenos of a trite undertaking. Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y—presumably the dollar bill signs represent ’S’ in the English alphabet, as Iggy repeats ‘pussy’ over and over again—signifies something close to the culmination of universal Self-Torment. In the music video, Iggy licks a few different popsicles, holds an umbrella on a normal dry day, and lays her head in the crotch of a little black boy who was previously riding on a plastic electric horse as he slaps the inanimate object’s ass. The video itself is not anything new or especially provocative—merely a blonde Australian girl with a huge ass supposedly rapping about pussy. But it is difficult to determine exactly what Iggy Azalea is trying to communicate to us—is she in fact rapping about the condition of her pussy, or is she stating that men spend egregious amounts of money and thought on getting any pussy they can, or is she actually claiming that the nomological determinists were correct about Laplace’s Demon, that in fact we have no moral responsibility today because the laws of the universe previous to our birth determined everything that is and everything that ever will be? Let us examine:

It is rumored that if you play the song backwards at the same time you play the audio of Kim Kardashian’s moanings in her sex video, you can hear Kamikaze war planes exploding. I tried it when I was alone and particularly bored, and the rumors lack any serious evidence of such. But the banality of her music video, as well as Kim’s as she imitates a donkey, as well as countless other spectacles of our sexuality in popular culture, represents something of a higher order. Iggy’s song and video is interesting because it is so uninteresting. Perhaps we are desensitized to the mountains of cock and tits that swell over us, but perhaps it is more than this. Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, made the claim that the rise of our sexual freedom coincides directly with our political enslavement: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator  .  .  .  will do well to encourage that freedom  .  .  .  It will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Now, the religious folk will predictably applaud such a claim; they still protest that we should not have threesomes, that we should wait until marriage before falling asleep in the same room, that we should wear full-legged knickers over our bathing suits, that women’s panties should be huge. As a child attending Sunday school, I once had a teacher who told me we should all be striving to be like Mother Mary, to give birth to a child without any fornication whatsoever. Here we are caught between two worlds: one that popularizes sex until it becomes an indistinct fustian hunchback of dick, and another that is so afraid of anatomy and pleasure. And even though marriage as a societal institution predates all known recorded history, its original role was obviously never meant as a declaration of love, but as a banal alliance between families  .  .  .  and monogamy wasn’t mandated until the 9th century, when the Catholic Church could declare and enforce law.

The Church has always fucked everything up for us sexually. Dildos for example existed in the Upper Palaeolithic period 30,000 years ago, made of stone, tar, and wood, found in the Hohle Fels Cave in Germany. Didlo-like breadsticks existed in Greece prior to the fifth century. Today, American Baptist preacher Dan Ireland has spoken out against all fake dicks, stating “There are moral ways and immoral ways to use a firearm  .  .  .  There are no moral ways to use [a dildo]. They entice improper and potentially deadly behavior.” It is an interesting argument he makes: guns are good, but dildos can kill people. In some ways he’s right. I know a firefighter very well who found an obese dead guy prone on the bed, with a mechanized dildo still penetrating his ass after at least a couple days of laying dead. I wish I was making this shit up. Dildos are deadly. But then so are Bibles and toothbrushes and catnip. So why is Dan Ireland so afraid of dildos? Was he beaten with one as a child? Did he walk in on his father? In 1998, the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act prohibited the sale of sex toys in Alabama, and it still stands today. Dildos are only black market material in Alabama. Condoms are another example. They were used at least as far back as 11,000 years ago. In China, in the 1400’s A.D., they would wrap it in sheep intestines, and then pack it into their lover like a marshmallow into a keyhole. The Catholic Church has always been outspoken against the use of condoms, but they are great at covering up child molestation. Religion prospers during war and economic strife, but when exactly does it fade, consequently opening room for further sexual liberation? French philosopher Michel Foucault agreed with Huxley, in that furthering sexual liberation also ushered in “devious and discreet form[s] of power.” But one must remain skeptical of the intellectuals, because yes, Foucault and Huxley are considered by most as smart men, but Foucault was bald and Huxley had a terribly dull love life, and a man is still a man, no matter how strict and revered an academic he is, meaning they were both likely bitter non-alpha types. Wilhelm Reich on the other hand ushered in the sexual liberation to the United States immediately following the second World War, and he did so as a psychoanalyst, and he fucked more women than the most pernicious Lotharios today. So where are we today? Yes, Iggy Azalea does rap about her albino vagina freely, but rates of sex-slavery are also higher today than any point in human history, something not so representative of an era’s sexual freedom. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, illustrates this perfectly  .  .  .  he spent £11,300 on his wife’s hair and make-up in a single year, and she is still fat and repulsive. So we are left wondering: does force-fed improvement actually improve anything? Does the popularization of sex actually make us more liberated? Edward Snowden even admitted the NSA can see all of your dickpics, something terrifying for modern man.

I slept with a Hungarian woman last night. It was fine and all, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we were only fucking because there is drone warfare spread throughout the Middle East, killing innocents who will never receive their justice. Does our gasping from a particularly sordid 69 originate as a direct way of coping with the NSA’s Prism program? Is reverse cowgirl in fact a testament of the disparity of wealth across the country and the world? Aldous Huxley thinks so. So does Michel Foucault. I spend a fair amount of my time and money staring at women in their lingerie as they twirl around a metal pole at Jumbo’s Clown Room, a burlesque bar in Los Angeles, and the dancers’ coquettish physiognomy that follows. Some people prefer to walk up and down stairs in the sun. Some attend church, handing money into baskets as they go by. I sit as the dancers twirl, throwing my money on the stage, drinking beer as California dries up.

God is dead. Iggy Azalea is dead. We are nearly there. The Chihuahua barks one last time then curls next to the woman and closes its eyes. Iggy’s fat ass wasn’t enough to keep the awful night away. She never had the guts to stay alive. Ferdinand Louis Celine said it best: “So many vaginas, stomachs, cocks, snouts, and flies you don’t know what to do with them … shovelsfull! … but hearts? … very rare! in the last five hundred million years too many cocks and gastric tubes to count … but hearts? … on your fingers! …”