A Future Squatting Amongst Stars

Current Events, Philosophy, Satire and Cynicism, Uncategorized

spacestaion

by Guy Walker

Like a resurrected god emerging from cobwebs and gold, the tottering heroisms that only existed as lore are then redressed in the milky fog, conspiring with pigs, their buckled snorts are now for everyone to sing like prophecy.

The future is a cruel vampish remark of ourselves, either too self-complimentary of our abilities, or too elaborate in its cynicism that it’s somehow made exciting. The real monomania of man is straddling time as it hurls towards some far more theatrical hellworld, like Major King Kong riding the bomb towards global annihilation in Dr. Strangelove. We devour any new hypothesis about what the future will look like. Most are grim: men cloaked in shredded ponchos sifting through the ashen garbage of a bomb-blasted city; an all-consuming eyeball watching its slave-citizens exert their last breaths in some menial chore, when they open the mail, how much sugar they spoon into their government-regulated coffee, rationing bathroom breaks into paranoid gasps under a permanent gray sky. It’s no longer called “going to the bathroom”; instead, it’s just squatting in the minefield, shitting poisoned gumdrops into gofer holes, ducking under the propellers of crowded drone highways. Or, we envisage paradise: glowing diodes scaled in pink flesh, the libidinal Turing test coaxing millions of penises upward like miniaturized dancing tube men you see outside gas stations. Our willingness to submit ourselves to the fantasy of being controlled by AI sex demons is enough to fund clinical research into the ubiquity of our madness, a race gorging itself on a five million gallon tub of popcorn, swimming in bubble baths of Diet Coke, the half-chewed corpse of our animal selves left to die in the expanding sun.

There’s never stories of a flourishing utopia where citizens enjoy fortunes of wine and gold-leafed genitals. It’s not because stories need conflict to be deserving of telling, but rather because we all know the future is already haunted by our collective stain. “Utopia,” of course, originally translates as “nowhere” or “no place” from the Greek and Latin. The term was coined by Thomas More for a book in 1516, about an imaginary island that could never realistically exist. Because humanity is a marching band of rabies and excrement, parading our predestined death drive for everything to touch.

The Earth isn’t enough for us. We were never really meant to stay here after all, we tell ourselves. We have to expand up and out into the cosmic arena, the future suddenly become the present.

Isaac Asimov penned a piece thirty-five years ago for The Star, predicting what the world would look like today in 2019, the same timeframe from when Orwell wrote 1984, in 1949. Another pointless stream of musings by a science fiction writer, perhaps, electing himself as another voice in the orgiastic industry of fortunetellers hunched over their gleaming orbuculums. His mangled and teased sideburns curling every which way, like human velcro strips, antennas that were meant to signal his way back to the alien ship he wanted so desperately to exist. You can almost picture him, not stroking his chin like true learned men do, but rubbing the furry islands on his cheeks, one set of pointed fingers in each nest, so as to think doubly hard.

The essay is short and yet somehow achieves a grander more bestial form of tedium. He makes brief nods that the burdens of overpopulation and pollution would be “strenuous,” and at worst, “painful” to overcome, but after what amounted to a woefully self-evident position that anyone who paid any attention to the course of current events could come up with, he roared on to what you’d expect only a sci-fi writer gorging on his most reasonable conceits would write. By 2019, he predicted, we’ll have vast space colonization efforts under way, expanding solar power stations on other planets and microwaving unlimited amounts of solar energy back to Earth. An “international force” will be mining the moon and taking it to “places in space” in order to manufacture the soil into the structures we’ll then send into orbit around the Earth.

The gloating vagueness of what new undetermined spacecraft will be manufactured from the ashen rubble on the moon only illustrates that people like Asimov never really had a plan to begin with. It’s just getting closer to resembling the Jetsons without thinking what it’s all for.

Computers will revolutionize the education system, he continued, and therefore, “Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.” His predictions were more optimistic than nearly anyone else who scribed their tellings, more than the self-assumptive powers of George Orwell who stated 1984 was a warning if we weren’t careful. More than Aldous Huxley who thought we’d degenerate because we enjoyed sex too much. Asimov wrote over 500 books, and around 90,000 letters, an expulsion of mostly awful fantasies exceeded only by the likes of L. Ron Hubbard. If you write that much, you are simply ravenous, your nostrils dilating like a bulls, your retinas clogged with surfaced arteries, beads of sweat squeezing through every pore. When hearing of Kerouac’s writing style, Truman Capote commented, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” But Asimov didn’t even type; he leaned over stacks of paper that were spread out randomly and stuck his fist down his throat, waterfalls of words spilling haphazardly onto the pages, books less sensical than Jack Torrance just repeating the same sentence over and over ten thousand times in The Shining.

There is something obviously maniacal and self-loathing in our proclivities for some undetermined future. And Asimov may be an easy example of the boyish fatuity to leave this plane of banality in exchange for something much more colorful and exciting, but Elon Musk wants the same thing—he just goes about it in more adept ways. Carl Sagan wanted the same. Stephen Hawking. All those who indulge in altered states of consciousness are doing the same thing. Consuming highly powerful psychedelics like DMT isn’t really about any spiritual endeavor; it’s about rocketing yourself to the ninth dimension in an instant just because you can, because eating ramen and driving to work and jerking off to the same dreary image of a bleached asshole, and everything else is the same fist-clenching tedium we’ve been forever trying to escape.

Our economy on Earth relies on people continuing to buy meaningless shit, selling advertisements on Youtube for underwater headphones, while you wait for a video to load of a raccoon playing with a Made-In-China plastic toy. It’s too crowded here, with the voluntary onslaught of linoleum and styrofoam and dog hotels and signs pointing every direction at once. Outer space is the frozen empty void, Arena Todestrieb where human-engineered ballast phalluses cartwheel for two hundred years, the whole crew cryogenically frozen, as the distant whirring and periodic beeps sink away into a deathless midnight; and they’re doing this simply because this is the new frontier.

We speak of frontier enthusiastically, in the way our dead incest-advocate great great grandparents spoke of Manifest Destiny, that it was justified and foreordained. Even the eminent sun-tendrilled poet Walt Whitman, who wrote at length of the indelible handsomeness of nature and her things, pardoned the chugging pogrom of the natural world in his Pioneers! O Pioneers!, one of the most celebrated iconic poems of the American West: We primeval forests felling, We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within, We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving, Pioneers! O pioneers! We can’t help but plunder the untouched edges of the world, until the American West is finally completed as it was always meant to be, into one gargantuan neon shopping mall, the florescent tube lights buzzing off the polished floors like marble, runny-nosed children stretching their fingers out for another ice cream, the whole mad slippery empire swallowing up the moon, and then Mars, and then forever beyond.

Mars One is a private Dutch company of four people, pledging to colonize Mars by the 2030’s, turning the whole red-stained circus into the ultimate reality show, literally. They’re planning to send regular folk up there, so they can shuffle around like penguins on the deserted planet, seeing how long they can survive before the lonely mania sets in, before they start ripping their spacesuits off and running into the frozen landscape, naked and free at last. It has been broadly criticized as a suicide mission by the aerospace industry; and yet still, the proposed mission recruited interest from more than 200,000 people, all knowing it’s self-described as a one-way trip, just so their Real World vacation can be filmed and beamed back to Earth for our viewing pleasure. It’s the ultimate death drive. Our collective vanity perspiring into a dribbling goo, so that we were on some television sets for a few hours.

Even though SpaceX rejected Mars One’s proposal to be a part of their mission, Elon Musk also wants to die on Mars. He’s certain this planet isn’t big enough for him. The dull terraqueous hubris of nature isn’t even enough to tickle the poets—the spindly greenery suitable only for animals and peasants who still succumb to their sublunary programming. When Musk first steps off the grated ramp, and sinks his feet into the bloodshot soil, he will laugh, having successfully left one dead planet for another. It doesn’t matter what happens next—how many steps he takes like a stumbling newborn, where and how he finally falls, hugging a rock, gasping his last breaths. The point is it’ll be a return to nothingness—the whole mission a huge success in returning the human species to the rest of the dumb impartial emptiness of the universe, to the infinity of nothingness, turning back the evolutionary clock on ourselves, until before we were apes, before the first fish and microbes, before the first squiggling turds of existence, until all that’s left of us is a fading stain across the glittering mosaic of the cosmos.

There is a very real possibility we are the most intelligent and technologically advanced beings in the universe. Even though 80-100% of stars are predicted to have planets orbiting them, and an approximate 20% of those planets are thought to be in the Goldilocks zone, where life is prone to take place, there is no built-in impassioned drive towards intelligent life. With the innumerable elemental factors in place, we don’t know the odds of life going from slime on the warming shores to space-whizzing humans, but that number could be so low that we’re the only ones for now. And yet we’ve persisted in replacing the death of God with the absolute conviction that aliens visit us on a regular basis. My otherwise intelligent colleague was just recently convinced aliens put us all here, and is controlling us by having us invent smartphones for our own distraction—not all that different a theory from the Scientologists. The so-called New Atheists—Dawkins, Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, et al.—miscalculated their burden to convince the masses to abandon their silly creeds. The challenge wasn’t that we wouldn’t know where to get our morals from, but that we would then select from the library of daydreams to replace them instead of fostering the sterility of empiricism. Even amongst a serious scientific community, programs like Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) are endearing iterations of our failure to be alone, our trembling fear of the dark.

But our collective fixation to leave this cannibalizing orgy and begin anew somewhere else was no worse depicted than in the 2014 epic Interstellar, a convulsive meltdown of narrative in which humanity must scramble to discover and colonize a new planet before being ravaged by an unexplained error in our crop yields. We are yanked from this planet with still many signs of life, the diversity of biomes great enough to guarantee nature’s resiliency, and travel through other dimensions, looking to settle on another dead ice rock. It doesn’t follow a sensical narrative because nearly the entire genre of futuristic sci-fi doesn’t follow standard cogency. And here we are, in real life, trying to mimic sci-fi’s worst aspects, pursuing technological feats “because we can,” because we’ve seen Kubrick’s flying bone turn into a space shuttle too many times, and we construct that as our toolmaking destiny, still masturbating our collective selves to the perceived nobility in JFK’s quip of going to the moon because “it is hard.”

In our temptation to draw out some picture of the future we either fear or hope for, we do best when at the very least we stay on this planet. The future is never epic when it is arrived upon; it’s the fantasy of it that entices us again and again to spend our time and money consuming it like a porno vision of tomorrow.

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was directly inspired by 1984, even though Gilliam admitted he never read the book. The concept of dystopia is attractive enough; the details will fill themselves in after the fact. It’s tempting to compare the whole lot of futuristic books and films and the like, and idolize the most accurate and likely, the thought being with enough guesses eventually someone will get it right. And Brazil is probably the most rigorous and faultless in regard to its social aspects, at least for the time. It’s stylized humor is not actually humor and not actually stylized, but just a form of observant note taking; the most absurd accounts now looking more like accurate depictions of our present-day ennui. In Brazil, the rich stretch their faces tight with saran wrap and wear leopard-printed high-heels on their heads; we inject our asses with a toxic clotting fluid, and lay in tinfoil sleeping bags binge watching other sci-fi possibilities, imagining ourselves on another frozen rocky frontier, through another dimension, far more lonely than this one here.

We already lost the future. Now, all that’s left to fix is the present, or what we have left of it. Climate change, nuclear annihilation, never-before-seen inequality, more and more military-clad despots who sneer like baboons with opposing jeweled grills—these realities won’t go away with never-ending prophecies and productions. They won’t go away if we try to get away, to other deserts on other planets. The real life strata of decay will follow us like a shadow, until we fix it here amongst ourselves, on this lonely island bobbing in empty space.

From Tiktaalik to Tinder: Online Dating with the HAL 9000

Current Events, Pop Culture, Uncategorized

“Without your space helmet, Dave? You’re going to find that rather difficult.” -HAL 9000

hal-warp-ft

by Guy Walker

Online dating isn’t what it used to be. There used to be a tinge of splendor, a sense that you were exploring the murky sloven depths of humanity, a sordid excitement of the unknown. It was similar to what Cortes and Pizarro and Columbus must have felt when they shoved themselves into their huge drunken voyages, uncertain if they were going to find gold and riches and an endless supply of slaves, or just a tragic arena of dirt, lost in their own fetid storms of sweat and dust. When Match.com began in 1995, it was home to every Freudian urge, every malformed superego trying to find its compliment in the vast disorganized orgy, all that luxuriant animality humping its way through eternity. You really didn’t know what was going to come about—this was the new frontier.

The 90’s was an era of unbridled romance. We began leaving the streets and bar counters and changing rooms, preferring to sit hunched over our computers staring at internet porn, endlessly curating our public profiles in order to present ourselves as successful, blooming, yolo alpha-types. All those swollen genitals congregating behind their glowing screens, every gaping mouth scrolling through countless profiles, trying to match themselves with another desirable set. In those pungent cascading days, when our puff sneakers had flickering glow-lights in the heel, when Creed and Limp Bizkit got us properly fucked up, when global warming hadn’t yet killed all the coral reefs, dating was dangerous. Maybe her pictures were deceiving and she had an Adam’s apple. Maybe he was a mute. Maybe she had the full collection of Beanie Babies organized across her bed, and she slept on the floor. The further back you go, the more dangerous and provocative it gets. Before Match.com, there was The Dating Game, when you picked your date hidden behind a wall, when in 1978, convicted serial killer and rapist Rodney Alcala won because of his “banana” answer. The Sambian tribe in New Guinea makes their young drink cupfuls of their tribal leaders’ semen. There were the Hellfire Clubs of Britain and Ireland in the 18th century, high society clubs that attracted the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Lord Wharton, who all practiced “rigorously pagan” sexual acts, wearing cultish white gowns as they fucked a pig (something David Cameron reintroduced to the modern world). Genghis Khan has 16 million descendants. And before all of them, there were the gods of Flora, Venus, and Dionysus, every centaur and crippled angel stroking the edges of night.

Today, online dating is a pedantic sheltered custom, like purity balls of the very religious. Kant’s categorical imperative is base, and merely suggests you should get out of bed and change your underwear—everything else is inconsequential. Dating sites are so specialized, so meticulously curated to one’s particular desires, there is little peril or urgency anymore. There’s one for gluten free people, fat people, Christians, Jews, cougars, zombies, vampires, female prisoners, furries, people with food allergies, people in diapers, people with mullets, clowns, farmers, midgets, tall people, conspiracy theorists. Rule 34 is as true for dating sites as it is for porn. Our rampant puissant tribalism has dissipated into a bunch of shitty websites, our evolutionary obduracy is nothing more than a claustrophobic set of safe houses. The Jared Diamonds of the future will write books on the anthropological significance of dick pics and Tinder bios, on why some sites failed and others prospered and conquered the world.

But there is also an aspect to it that is quite ordinary and expected. People have always used the available tools of accessibility in order to mate more freely and effectively with each other. Animals have always congregated around watering holes in order to bloat their colored feathers and chase each other around the desert. We’re attracted to those who are most like us. As reported in the July 2010 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, research suggests we are more attracted to people who resemble our parents or ourselves. Similarly, researchers at deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik reported in a 2008 issue of Science that reproductive unions between third and fourth cousins in Iceland tend to reproduce more children and grandchildren than completely unrelated individuals, without any inbreeding consequences. The id is impulsively drawn to fuck its own. So it’s perfectly natural for a furry to want to mate with another furry, as they do en masse at furry conventions—our own sexual narcissism is implanted in our genetic code.

Our bios on dating sites tend to be cute, self-ironic haikus graffitied with paragraphs of emojis that exclaim our complexities, suggesting to our potential mate that not only are we able-bodied and damp enough, but we like music, lips, wine, dancing skeletons, and cactus. Opening conversations are some beige semblance of ‘dtf?’ or some indirect query that leads to much of the same. Here, it’s obvious to apply Foucauldian discourse analysis, which focuses on power relationships within society (both personal and institutional) as expressed through our language and behavior. Similar to social constructivism, Foucauldian discourse analysis examines how the structure and evolution of our language is preceded by our surroundings of power and influence. Previous to the internet, the prelude to our mating rituals was a play of discourse, a weighing of one another’s dominance. As we spoke and gradually got to know one another, we were testing each other, judging who held the dominant role. But in the epoch of the dating site and the dating app, the app itself is the dominant force, the algorithmic code that enables or disables an exchange.

We always had some sort of vague pedantry when it came to dating—the august jouissance of staring into this new stranger’s eyes as you circle the rim of your wineglass with your pointy finger, directing your toes toward her in a psychologically informative way, repeating agreeable terms over and over whilst you drift aimlessly through the libidinal stratum of fantasy, nodding your head as you think about the anatomy of her buttocks. Because of course it’s the anticipation of titillation itself that is most exciting. We want to wonder whether or not we are going to consume each other’s sweat and rushing fluids, if mentioning stories of your childhood cat are going to pay off, if your trousers are going to slip helplessly to the floor.

But the dating app is an ephemeral fart in the ever-advancement of accessibility to each others’ private parts. Where do we go from here?

Elon Musk recently said at the 2016 Code Conference that there is a “one in billions” chance that this plane of existence in not a simulation. We’re essentially one advanced game of Halo, every hairless cretinous cyborg groping through high definition digital forests for something to eat and fuck. He added that in order to not be outpaced by A.I., we’ll need to “achieve symbiosis with machines” through neural lacing, essentially accessing the powers of the internet through singular thoughts.

This begs the question: will we continue to fuck? Will we continue to follow our base instincts, our longings for flesh and sweat and smelly fingers? The movie Her explores this theme similarly, and quite realistically and hauntingly, suggesting a future of love and sex with an invisible A.I. hidden inside our ear. This outcome seems inevitable. And not just for the ugly malformed masses who can’t find mates, but for the entire human herd, everyone compartmentalizing in their own private invisible 69’s.

But maybe the most hauntingly impotent form of modern day sexuality is already a thing: tantric massage, a practice that seems to promise tremendous full body orgasms, but none of the flesh, none of the eye contact, none of the dripping fluids, just a yoga teacher standing over you, fanning your pussy but not actually touching anything. It’s an orgasm without sex, a completely immaterial perverse exchange, concluded with an awkward contrite handshake.

I never thought this type of sexless exchange would popularize. I thought humans would always naturally gravitate towards the tingly sensitivities of flesh against porous flesh, of the agglutinative heat of bodies pressed tight against one another. Because orgasm has always seemed like something to delay, that the pleasure of the body itself was the goal, that once orgasm was achieved, only this cold dank half-reality was left, and you had to tend to the mess you’ve made. But popular philosophical thought is at a crossroads of desire.

Slavoj Žižek tells that his ideal romantic relationship would be for a woman to come to his house with an electric dildo, and he would reveal his pocket pussy, and they would set the two shivering silicone apparatuses at it, fucking away on the fireplace mantle or wherever, as Žižek and his date could drink tea, watch movies, laugh, and pull on their noses. This would relieve Žižek of all the “oppressiveness” of sex, all the obsession with performing the sexual act correctly.

This may happen for a period, but the acceleration of technology will quickly surpass even this. And maybe our last moment, before the collapse of the universe, will be Žižek pulling on his nose as he’s humping the HAL 9000, and a hologram of Neil DeGrasse Tyson appears in the background, and he’s burbling up some stupid witticism about the evolution of this marvelous exchange. The violet and turquoise bursts from stars will intersect, the swirling clouds spreading across lightyears will flood our breasts, the florid bright freckling of the galaxies collapse at the final orgasm, and HAL’s distorted last song slowly drawls on.

From Barcelona to Mars: Gentrification of the Universe

Current Events, Economics, Philosophy, Politics, Pop Culture, Satire and Cynicism, Uncategorized

“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?