Madness Under Modern Capitalism

Let’s talk about madness. Schizophrenia: from the ancient Greek schizo, meaning ‘split,’ and phrene, meaning ‘mind.’ But of course, in recent history, since around the 19th century, our ways of thinking about ‘schizophrenia’ have become much more complicated: a growing function of social and psychiatric progress. The history of our understanding of this complex manner of madness boomed in around the 1980s, with a neurophysiological descriptive explosion spurred on by new research, resulting in new pharmacological treatments and an eventual explosion in subtypes. This expanding bubble of complications popped somewhat in 2013, when the DSM-5 recommended dropping all subtype classifications, leaving us with alone again with just ‘schizophrenia,’ itself.

Hanging before our psychiatric institutions, our own schizoid selves.
Hanging before its religion, policing morals and condemning to Hell.

Hanging before us, quite intimately, as a reflection on the nature of the self and the possibility of our familiarity with it. Staring at us as a phenomenology of the Other – but, is it also an othering ontology? The majority consensus on schizophrenia since as early as the 19th century has been to regard it primarily as a physical disorder: today, a mental disorder symptomatically contingent upon neurophysiology and specific patterns of neurological decay. However, as Ronny Turner and Charles Edgley argue, “only after behavior is labeled as deviant can it be identified as such & diagnosed as chemically caused.”[1] The specific causal mechanisms of schizophrenia remain elusive. The neurochemicalists put social disorder at only a brain scan away from mental disorder and pharmacological normalization. Their strict materialist conception of the disease downplays or outright denies the significance of sociocultural causes. And this conception is reflected in treatment.

Never mind that recovery outcomes for people suffering from schizophrenia have been shown across a multitude of international studies commissioned by the World Health Organization to be significantly greater for patients in developing countries, where pharmacological intervention is not the standard of care, over developed countries. “Far from being mere incidental cultural music … therapeutic benefits [appear to be] forgone under circumstances of enforced supported dependency.”[2] Never mind that male African Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom are as much as ten times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than young Brits, in spite of the orthodox epidemiologist’s taxonomy of environmental and genetic factors predicting deviations of rates of incidence of schizophrenia within only about a single percent across cultures[3] (similar figures exist in studies of immigrants to the Netherlands.) Even differentiation between rates of early onset in males and females, for a time thought to be one robust and well-replicated result in the tome of our largely uncertain knowledge of schizophrenia, has recently been found to be a confounded finding.[4] The data is simply not as secure as we are led to believe by psychiatry and its affiliated institutions. (Perhaps the nice old owners of the pharmaceutical firms responsible for producing antipsychotic drugs have no vested interests in these matters.)

There are many questions: why the better outcomes for sufferers of schizophrenia in developing countries? Why the increased risk for culturally dislocated immigrants? Social causes and socially structured care. Perhaps these questions jointly suggest an answer, pointing to a radical reconceptualization of schizophrenia as a socially constructed disorder. Of course, this does not detract in any way from its reality, simply put. It is just that we should consider both treatments for and causes of the disease to have a fundamentally sociological character. The mental trauma endured by child sufferers of abuse can be tracked in distinct physiological characteristics of the developmental brain later on in life. Why think that the daily traumas experienced in life within the totalizing technosphere of modern capitalism could not equally mark their tracks in the brain?

We will not lapse into full-blown dealings with Deleuze, here. However, our conception of schizophrenia is determined by several of the various institutions within Western medical science, and so it is suitable to seek answers to these questions somewhere in the framework of sociopolitical assumptions that creates the context in which said institutions lay their foundations. From Levins,

The bourgeois atomistic view of society, as applied to science, asserts that progress is made by a few individuals (who just happen to be “us”) … Individualism in science helps create the common belief that the properties of populations are simply derivable from those of the uncharged atoms (genes) of populations or societies…

The specialization of scientific labor and of command functions from research creates a model of scientific organization that is easily seen as the model for the organization of the world. Nature is perceived as following the organization chart of our company or university, with similar phenomena united under a single chairman, distinct but related phenomena united under a common dean. Thus specialization in practice joins with atomistic individualism to reinforce the reductionism that still predominates in the implicit philosophy of scientists.[5]

Individualism and reductionism: sever the individual from society, reduce the cause of the patient’s condition to something entirely material, or physical. Correct neurological imbalances with powerful dopamine reuptake inhibitors, enforcing treatment within the confines of special types of prisons called mental health hospitals. In India, greater health outcomes for schizophrenics have been attributed to a highly attentive family based care model, based on the specific needs of the suffering individual and typically carried out in the home. Pharmacological interventions are significantly less common.  A recent sixteen month ethnographic study on the standards of psychiatric treatment for schizophrenics in ‘developing’ India finds that “a model of medical care that deemphasizes patient autonomy [i.e., individualization] and the rational understanding of pathology [i.e., reductionism] benefits those diagnosed with schizophrenia.”[6]

It is not that all scientists in the West are themselves bourgeois, but they are largely the ideologues of the ruling class. An inter-institutional struggle between the old Enlightenment ideals for science and its unending search for Truth, and the post-positivistic research cartels racing to some finish line just to finally get it right and to get the last word (and more often than not, to patent it as intellectual property) has created a rift between the laborers of science based on their support or repudiation of commoditization. The poor outcomes of Western medical science with respect to schizophrenia points to a point of contradiction, where the values imposed from the top-down through enforced institutional arrangements that benefit the ruling class might be exposed as oppressive. To root out these oppressive values, we must take aim at the commoditization of science. And this, in turn, will lead us squarely to a critique of the great modern romance between science, technology, and capitalism.

[1] See “From Witchcraft to Drugcraft: Biochemistry as Mythology,” in The Social Science Journal 20.4 (1983).

[2] Hopper and Wanderling, “Revisiting the Developed Versus Developing Country Distinction in Course and Outcome in Schizophrenia,” in Schizophrenia Bulletin 26.4 (2000).

[3] Jones and Fung, “Ethnicity and Mental Health: The Example of Schizophrenia in the African Caribbean Population in Europe,” in Ethnicity and Causal Mechanisms (2005), 227-61.

[4] Jablensky and Cole, “Is the earlier age at onset of schizophrenia in males a confounded finding?” in British Journal of Psychiatry 170 (1997).

[5] Levins & Lewontin, “The Commoditization of Science,” in The Dialectical Biologist (1985).

[6] Sousa, “Pragmatic ethics, sensible care: Psychiatry and schizophrenia in north India,” available in Sociological Abstracts.

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Freedom Isn’t Free



May 25th, early afternoon.

Here is an idea.

“Freedom isn’t free.”. It reminds of us the song from that post-9/11 great American satire by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Team America: World Police.  “It costs folks like you and me.”

What defines the democratic institutions of Western Liberalism – at least in their idealized forms – is just freedom itself.

I am sitting in the backyard, with construction noise blaring out behind me.  Inside and on the TV, some Conservative politician has been raving about his ‘Common Sense’ approach to gun control laws for the last twenty minutes or so.

We are a generation which asks, “freedom for whom?”  We see the people in and around our society who are free – we see the actual ideals of freedom embodied by our institutions.  Freedom is mostly economical, its ideal very bourgeois.  The eternal question that we ask ourselves, ringing out from our younger years when its expectations were washed out of us: “what would I do, if money didn’t matter?”

Society profits off of the dream of this elusive freedom in every way that’s imaginable, and of course these profits are unequally distributed among an elite minority. A most transparent wealth of examples comes from the pool of any province, state or sovereign’s lottery corporations.

“Freedom isn’t free.”

Go figure – the ideal of Western Liberalism is and always was based on slavery. Take a look at ancient Athenian democracy, and Aristotle and Plato (taken at their word) become apologists. Now we’re all globalized, emigrated and intermingled, so it’s harder than ever to discriminate purely on a racial basis who becomes the enslaved. But that has never mattered as much as we are told it has. We easily forget that, in each original state in America which countenanced slavery in the history of its ‘founding,’ free black men owned slaves. Freedom, again, is just freedom to participate in a special economic institution – that of slavery.

And not much has changed since then.

The university has become a site of direct economic and indirect ideological oppression of young people. To the credit of the histories of our academic institutions, the universities have mostly also continued to be sites which foster the critical minds of young social progressives who choose to become their students.

Now universities have been moving for quite some time towards a privatized funding model, and even department headings are reshuffled and prioritized directly by virtue of their productive capacities. Traditional continental universities do not distinguish between the natural and the human ‘sciences,’ for example; this is why the French and some German traditions in philosophy have made more efforts to impress their relatively more highly esteemed colleagues in history, sociology, and anthropology, compared to the cold logicism of their ‘pure’ Western analytic counterparts, all in awe of science and its industrious technology. A new young bourgeois has grown within the walls of the technocratic elements espoused by Western Liberalism throughout the history of its romance with industry, and now Silicon Valley is worth more than Wall Street (a capitalist topology.) And this is increasingly where university funding is coming from.

The pains of cuts to our universities are unevenly distributed. Students in the humanities – in philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, women’s studies, critical theory, etc. – are seeing their departments put on the chopping block, while engineers and computer scientists remain untouched and aloof, often even oblivious to the realities that stand at the periphery of their perceptions: in a word, an elite.

This uneven distribution naturally expresses itself in the form of a political division. While I dare not speak univocally, I have witnessed firsthand these divisions in Quebec, in student association assemblies and solidarity meetings, an opposition and antagonism expressed through absence in the anti-austerity movement’s student layers, there in those streets where we find most often students from the ‘humanities.’ I would expect that the experiences of many others will attest to this.

No doubt the teachings of these departments are more often directed at a lived experience of critical thinking, which also explains why the greater numbers of students of the left in these departments. But students in the ‘hard’ sciences and engineering are seldom socio-politically daft. Moreover, one need not look far in any given discipline to find the values of the ruling class, expressed either implicitly or explicitly.

We see that our departments are less valued. Privatization and funding cuts crush the critical culture, exercising economic pressure through massively climbing student debt and an inability to find jobs in our disciplines, or anywhere that pays close to a living wage. The young are increasingly the wage-slaves, and those that try to better understand, in order to improve society itself are doubly punished with the burden of debt and the threat of under-labouring alienation. Student loan horror-stories stand their tellers like heads on pikes foreboding the entry of many others for whom the prospect of such a debt is a more literal death sentence.

Our Western neo-Liberalism still punishes poverty as if it is a social sin. Our democratic institutions are designed to give freedom to the slave-owners, as ever have they been.

We are kept even from being culturally significant – critically underrepresented in bourgeois media, taking recourse thereby to social media – just as barbarians in the old Athenian polis.

Here is an etymology game: ‘barbarism,’ from the Greek barbarismos, meaning roughly “to speak like a foreigner.” Bar bar bar bar… phonetically signifies meaningless jibberish. Nothing is more barbarous, in this purest sense, than the oppressed voice of the radical left to the ears of the bourgeoisie, young or old. Barbarians then and now, we are simply paid little mind, as one quickly tunes out of the sounds of a foreign language, when one is not quite eager to understand.

Nietzsche’s hammer doesn’t belong in our hands anymore. It belongs at the front steps of all of our democratic institutions. They are ageing and decrepit, so they shouldn’t be tough to topple. Freedom is very free, but it too is enslaved, corrupted at its excess by a minority of the obscenely wealthy.

The anarchists are utopians intoxicated on the escapist ideology of the absolutely ‘free’ – we may be drunk on an idea, but perhaps not quite so much. We need some institutions, but they call for us to rebuild them.

The abolition of old institutions must smash at the foundations of economism. Abolish the Senate, a historical faithful to the British House of Lords. Nationalize the banks. And crucially, end the privatization of university funding. As outsourced research labs for corporations, universities are rapidly becoming sites for scientific discovery at the major expense of human (self-)discovery, technological rather than social progress.

And all of this is preliminary to the question of the kinds of results that lie within the network of possibilities for such sciences, directions of research programs and their implicit sociocultural biases. But, we must never absent ourselves from rooting out such oppressive ideologies at their material source…

An Open Letter to Thomas Mulcair

The following letter was sent to the office of opposition leader Thomas Mulcair, on the evening of May 18th, 2015. 

Dear Thomas Mulcair,

You do not know who I am in particular, although you may recognize my face. You would recognize it from among the faces of supporters whose hands you shook at a rally for the New Democratic Party in Victoria on Thursday. I heard an ex-producer of the recently passed B.B. King interviewed on the CBC earlier this week, who proclaimed that anyone who shook the blues guitar legend’s hand would right then become a friend to him for life, as a testament to the King’s good character. As I plan to support the New Democratic Party in the upcoming election, and as I encourage other young voters like myself to do the same, I find myself inclined to test the character of its leader, in a way hopefully distanced to some degree from the often purely performative spectacle of parliamentary politics. My name is Anthony James Gavin. Having extended your hand to me as an invitation to amicable support, so too do I hope that you will now accept my invitation into a political discourse.

I would like to discuss the question of the middle class, a cornerstone of your party’s platform: “New Democrats are committed to strengthening the middle class and raising up all those who have fallen out of the middle class due to the economic policies of both the Liberals and the Conservatives.” The problem, Mr. Mulcair, is that the ‘middle class’ is a myth. It is a myth of political utility and convenience. My hope is that we might dispel this myth, to reawaken a more realistic class view of society among the countless disenfranchised voters in Canada – particularly the youth – so that we might speak openly about the daily struggles that they face.

If I may briefly introduce a different, but related myth: that increasing numbers of young Canadians are failing to vote because they are either not interested in, or have never had sufficient educational opportunities in order to become actively engaged in politics and civic life (see, for example, a 2010 article in the Canadian Parliamentary Review, “Why Youth Do Note Vote?”) There may be some truth to this attitude, but we miss the mark on a much greater issue by stopping here. Rising numbers of overeducated and underemployed young Canadians are of a prevailing attitude which says (forgive my candor) that politics is bullshit. It is not that this layer of the youth are disengaged with civic life – quite the opposite. Many are activists operating on the fringes, or otherwise completely outside of provincial or federal political infrastructure (you are no doubt aware of the presence of this section of the youth from your time in Quebec.) Many others are actively engaged in the discourse of Canadian politics, but see that parliamentary democracy utterly and systematically fails to serve them. It fails to serve them, because it fails to recognize them. They do not see themselves as middle class. And despite facing record levels of debt, and the rapidly rising costs of housing in urban centers where most of them live (Vancouver is close to my heart, with housing costs skyrocketing in a foreign ownership inflation scandal, but also in Toronto), they do not aspire to ascend to the level of the elusive middle class citizen, with all of his traditional trappings. We are daily faced with the sheer inconceivability of ever purchasing something like a house, a new car, or of the possibility of working in a job that gives us anything beyond purely economic fulfilment – even then granting us only basic subsistence if we’re lucky – leaving us alienated by our labor.

This is a basic portrait of the young Canadian social progressive – an economic underclass. I speak now as an ‘us,’ rather than a ‘they.’ While Ottawa seems doomed constantly to fail to sing our tune, nonetheless you will find that we strike upon harmonious chords, Mr. Mulcair. No doubt the New Democrats are aware of this and have consciously crafted their platform to speak to these ideals, even if the Party fails to completely grasp the young Canadians who take them most to heart. The Party’s policy to repeal Bill C-51 speaks especially to this demographic, with many young Liberals having denounced Justin Trudeau for his complicity in buckling to the anti-terror legislation of the Conservatives. From a recent call to action from Youth Vote Canada,

A growing number of youth choose to take part in more “radical” actions, such as blockades, occupations, hacktivism, and intense ideological debate. Bill C-51 targets these actions, taking away our freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and conscience. If we continue to stigmatize actions like this, we are stigmatizing the democratic coming of age of an entire generation.

The expressed attitude of the Party over the freedom of Omar Khadr strikes the same chord again with these young social progressives, who have fervently denounced Stephen Harper’s disfiguration of Canada under a politics of fear. Finally, the mandate of the New Democrats to introduce a federal minimum wage of $15/hour is perhaps most directly, albeit least significantly, targeted at this group. I say ‘least significantly’ only because real political significance is married to ideology, and the social ideologies of these young progressives are less likely to ride on the coattails of economic gains than their parents were when change in Ottawa is on the docket, for just the reasons described above.

I reiterate; so that we may speak more directly to this group, let us dispel of, or at least suspend all that which leaves them feeling disillusioned. The ‘middle class’ is a myth which does not serve us. Our social dislocation is the result of a different class reality, the reality of class antagonism. We have realized this idea and manifested under it time and again, from the Western to the Eastern world, from the Occupy Movement to the Egyptian revolution in 2011 alone. The ‘middle class’ is an ideal of Western liberalism: a fictitious type of citizen who parasitizes the social neither from the top-down – as the ultra-capitalists that earn almost all of the wealth off of the backs of those whose labor creates the value of the goods that they sell – nor from the bottom-up, as those favourite social scapegoats of the upper-class bourgeoisie, those whose circumstance is such that they are forced into stigmatization and consequent indignity under the crumbling architecture of social services and welfare. The ‘middle class’ represents a theoretical point between exploiter and the exploited, between oppressor and the oppressed. A point nebulously based on income and the combined economic value of all of our property, introduced as an excluded middle between mutually antagonistic extremes, each deriding the other as parasite. The ‘middle class’ is a pernicious myth that disguises class antagonisms in society for those who find themselves defined by it.

Which takes me to my next point, Mr. Mulcair. For these ideological reasons, everyone is climbing over each other to identify themselves as middle class Canadians. This demonstrates the political utility of the myth. Up to 90% of our nearby American neighbours self-identify as middle class citizens. The number of Canadians is more respectable, down from a peak of nearly 70% prior to the global economic collapse that led to the 2008 recession, to 47% last year. In just one year since, the number has climbed again up to 52%. Interestingly, these numbers are based solely on income figures; when asked to consider both their financial and social place in society, 73% of Canadians self-identify as middle class. While we’re at it, I will point out that 36% identify as working class, rather than middle class[1]. Does this year’s being an election year help to explain the 5% jump in middle class self-identification, owing to broad sweeping political rhetoric? – after all, each party in Ottawa (save perhaps for the Greens) have made it their mandate to appeal to just this demographic. It makes sense. Present an image of the values of the ideal Canadian citizen, broadcasting one’s political platform as widely as possible among the many who wish only to be good, honest people, rather than parasites. The figures on numbers of Canadians who self-identify as middle class are endlessly more telling than any of the many types of median income calculations or other vectors of social standing which try to describe who the middle class citizens really are. The most conservative estimates of these sorts depict the middle 20% or so of Canadians as bona fide middle class. Could such a calculation ever serve parliamentary politics?

There is no room in the calculations of the 99% for solidarity with a wavering middle 50%-ish. The ideals presented in Ottawa fail to capture the minds of this youthful demographic which I have primarily been speaking of – although if we are being truthful, the demographic also includes that 36% slice of your ‘middle class’ who prefer to call themselves workers – because this demographic is crushed by its realities. Young Canadians are crushed by record highs in unemployment and student debt, but still only 38% voted in the last federal election. This is not because we are uneducated and unaware, but rather that none of the parties in Ottawa are speaking to us. Indeed, we are over-educated and hyper-aware, too educated for our wage-slavery, bright young minds from undergraduates to PhDs to the many excluded from the outset by the financial burden presented by university or college, working as baristas and paint shop clerks and under the banners of corrupt telecommunications brands in cramped shopping mall kiosks, or not working at all. We may not be a portrait of the old proletarians, but we are their closest comrades in ideology, in every sense an economic underclass faced with age-gaps and wage-gaps and drowning in unpaid internships. Our reality is the reality of class antagonisms in society, of capitalism in decay and breaking down all around us, and the rhetoric of the old ideals doesn’t sing our tune. We like our leaders like our B.B. Kings, somehow always echoing their influence through the music of the youth. Speak to us, and we will hear you.

This demographic, whose support you try to speak to through your policies, is not ultimately hearing you. Some are like me, who will invite you into a political discourse directly, and who will not hesitate to involve themselves in political activity both inside and outside of our traditional political infrastructure. But many are not, because many do not feel that they have been invited into the conversation in the first place. To speak figuratively, Mr. Mulcair – you have not given many of us a handshake. I implore you to do so, and to begin by engaging us in the discourse which I have opened up here. We are leaking into your ranks on all sides, from the young student MPs in Quebec to those in Rachel Notley’s provincial government in Alberta. Let us in, and we will happily engage you in discussions, lending you our support while maturing the radical politics of our generation on the outside. Because, as a tactical measure, it makes sense to launch our attack on all sides whenever we are able, both from within and without.

I hope that you will deliver a thoughtful reply to my letter, Mr. Mulcair. Because I find you to be a respectable man, and because we young people deserve it.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony J. Gavin

[1] These numbers published in Hennessy’s Indices by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

May the Force Die Through Us

Hot off the press, a fresh new piece of pure gonzo journalism, brought to you louder than ever in the style of the immortal Hunter S.   Watch out! – here comes Dionysus, derailing the chariot of Apollo. Five friends stoned on death find justice at the end of a violent – but colourful! – and noisy intergalactic civil war. A ship’s captain confronts his ownmost end and avows to surrender himself to the Goddess. Five friends smoking cigarettes like AK47s (chronically palatable) plunged into a world of real science fiction, inviting the interruption in as time’s uninvited guest, serving earth magic in their mugs. The day was May the 4th; we are met with our cultural inheritance, ‘artifactuality’ as brought to you by the one and only George Lucas, incorporated.

May the force be with us. The time forces the occasion, the event of celebration. May the 4th – Star Wars Day: an invitation. None among us, none among our generation, remembers the first time that they saw a Star Wars film. We were too young to witness the rising tide, the crest of A New Hope carrying waves of a cosmos at war – good versus evil, light versus dark, sagacity versus sin – through the desolation and despair of Empire, and on at last to the figure of the fallen son: Luke the redeemer, resurrected for but ever after the fall, corruption consuming the ghost of the hand that dares strike the father. Two times the sacrificial son, the resurrected and the damned, the Northern and the Morning Star, Christ and Lucifer tortured and entangled in the cold light of the day.

There is a calmness, a stillness in the balance of the opposition, the counterposition of the light and the dark sides of the force. Frozen in time, the freedom fighters are few and far between, rebel X-Wings lonely as a painted ships upon a painted ocean. But even a painted ship makes waves. We are connected by the force, waving through time and space as a tide anchored between two moons. The stillness of the tide is an illusion, speaking the presence – the speed – of celestial bodies. We are beings in time, defined by the speed at which we burn towards our own end. The son engulfs the moon in its last eventual breath: pneuma and aither, the logos and the order, ordered through the force of the great conflagration. We are beings of light, driven from darkness, drawn to wherever we can see.

Icarus, the truest of angels, falling from the sky. Escape the maze of the body, else the idea will die. The Skywalker melts his wings playing with fire.

This is our inheritance. This is a backdrop to our being. This is our time, this time – our historicity! But it wasn’t quite our gift. New movies for the new generation. We are drowned in the grandiose, speed and noise, action and impact, always in greater-than-living colour. Dangerous lightsaber acrobatics, clanking battledroid antics: a galaxy suffused with comedy over the cathartic, echoing through an empty hall – the hollowness of its tragedy. New wave Star Wars Ambush: a ‘young’ Yoda destroys a Toydarian coral reef and forces the other aliens into submission. The Othering aliens, and the alien Other. The galaxy far far away no longer captivates us, enchants us thereby drawing us towards it – no! The galaxy is younger, less sagely but all the more spritely: a cosmos in its adolescence, perhaps. We submit ourselves – are brought to submission – under duress, by force and coercion, by the attacking constancy of sheer everywhereness. By force!

The time arrives for us to acknowledge the presence of this different force; media meets us in the marketplace with a bombardment of midi-chlorians, cultural saturation and consumer goods so that we can sense its presence. Propagandisms: the constancy and necessity of war, the necessity of special powers to be invested in an intellectual and political elite, the self-justifying and always receding secrecy of the actual (the elusive Jedi Council struggles to strike the Supreme Chancellor’s strings, a hidden and puppeteering realpolitik.)

Before we can arrive, we must depart – even if our arrival is a return. Five friends stoned on death make earth magic noise like mushaboom bombs (with one lucid lad to our company.) We take off towards our end, driven but by telos through time: our only purpose. We are painted on the beach. The tides move in us in our stillness. Infinite azure expanse, an image greater than outer space before our eyes. The perfection of the image breaks all geometries. Lose the sunglasses, folks, and keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times. Forget the vehicle. We drink it all in and are still left starving after the aesthetic (salt water dehydrates.) A structure interrupts; driftwood deckhouses punctuating soft silt in several places. One castle (no taller than a man) holds the lot of us, pulls us in once or twice at a time. I am frozen, entranced, burning up upon the infinite at the edge of a front-row seat. A rainbow lives in thunderclouds. I am Being beyond language (the most insidious structure of all): the structure is a trap! How to escape it? Confound it? Confuse it? Stretch its boundaries? Make its letters bleed off all its pages!

We take to the structure. It is to our liking, for a time. A pocket knife among paraphernalia, but none of us could carve. Escape is soon on order. Anthony, you’re blocking the exit – ‘but everything is an exit! – isn’t that the point?’ We bleed out of the walls, humors rejecting the body, like lonely ghosts without a trace left in the soft white sand. Slowly we race for familiar land: grass is always greener where it is. Who can remember what time it is – what day it is? We found a new school in the yard by the beach, under the tree which puzzles monkeys like us (they will call us the Araucarians.) First teaching: time is the fire in which we all burn. We are like moths towards brilliant lights, illuminated by our ends, driven towards our ends of time like booby traps: false lights, everywhere.

The light is turned on inside. Pure Appollonian glow. We are overwhelmed by the darkness of the outside. We built Apollo. He is our God. Dionysus is there, too (never in mere parentheses.) I am frozen again, ponderous and heavy, anchored like a grounded mind and growing roots, writing furiously my furious thoughts. Indoors, they build shrines to young Yodas (not quite wise.) The force is seen for what it is: violent and oppressive, always in the everywhere, insinuated into our being as an element of cultural consciousness. The lightsaber sound is always an exclamation, a noisy shout attracting attention. We pay hardly any mind to the television shrine until the familiar sharp flash-crash-and-hum makes maps for the blind. Two leave, including our lucid lad. Four friends remain, dead and held in the Gorgon gaze to varying degrees. Earth magic bulwarks our home at the coastline. We make friends with philosophy. A discourse is distilled from the static of the stars, like stories of eternity read off of background radiation. The uninvited guest is dismissed. We are beings in time, but hospitality is our own. The day is dismissed. Time is dismissed. George Lucas, incorporated, exits through stage left.

Four friends remain to find justice at the end of intergalactic civil war. We trade Wars for the Trek. Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Justice,” season one, episode eight. Boldly we venture into the realm of the human, where no man wants to go anymore. Gonzo inner galaxies for intrepid psychonauts.

Captain’s log, Stardate 41255.6. The crew of the Enterprise faces the arbitrariness of the divine, of law and order and ordering principles. Conflict of the absolutes: the prime directive versus the unquestioning execution of guilty (but quite innocent) alien others. A young Wesley Crusher breaks Edo law, an alien custom unjust by the idealized human standard (unbridled post-techno-Capitalist socialism: or, Roddenberryism.) Crusher crushes nascent flowers – an affront to the aesthetic. The timing was all wrong. Crusher crushed flowers in the punishment zone, under the mediators’ purview; the punishment zone is randomly selected each day to the knowledge of no one (in God’s great wisdom.) The structure of an old game tries to play outside of the rules, which is always to submit to the rules of some other. The Edo play at free love, seemingly at all ages (of course Edo is etymologically rooted in hedone, the Ancient Greek for ‘hedonism.’) Young Wesley introduces the foreign game of violence to the alien culture. I know a game we can play, but we’ll need a bat… you know, a bat? – the introduction of the phallic, patriarchal oppressive violence, disruption and domination. All beauty crushed underfoot by the reckless playing of games. The perpetrator freely admits his crime. The punishment – the only punishment for all crimes – is death.

Hedonism, a starving after the aesthetic: xeno-ethics, altogether unfamiliar. The face of the other occasions the question of justice. Derrida would tell us, Marcel Mauss would tell us that it is the face which says, do not kill me. Humanity has excommunicated its every last Thrasymachus. The Edo seem unapologetically post-Platonic; the aesthetic is an idea, the ethics a living-towards truth or beauty. A trial ensues. A discourse of values and the apologia (a defense.) Meanwhile, a God is learning to speak. A ship’s captain opens communications with the divine. The captain unable to state his purpose, God interfaces with Data: the Holy Ghost becomes robotic body. Data the cyborg, the pinnacle of craft and all of our techno-romanticism. The telos of the human uncovered by the divine in pure techne. All of our purpose, the laws we have created and imposed to build it, exchanged for cheap upon visiting a new world.

Where does humanity fall on the question of justice in this utopian science fiction future? – in our very real present, the presence of visual distortions and navigation of the depths of inner space, of chattering teeth and living breathing shadows and hands trailing behind our hands (gonzo: gone into the future.) Wesley Crusher, the young son, is not to be sacrificed. Captain Picard makes a promise to the mother Doctor Beverly, to save his life at all costs. Two trinities: humanity’s defense is weighed up by the man, the mother, and the machine (Jean-Luc, the Doctor and Data discuss); the God of the Edo is introduced by the captain to His makeshift Mary Magdalene, and His people are competing for their right to the sacrificial son. But God is dead, and Nietzsche is dead. Justice for the human is justice for the mother. At all costs, save the son, for the love of the mother. We profess love of beauty beyond the aesthetic – it is the love of an idea, the ideal of justice. And we are vindicated by it.

Submission to the Goddess: the words to an old math metal song of protest booms through the chambers of my ears (our Goddess gave birth to your God.) Vindicated by submission to the mother, the Goddess, the very form of truth and beauty. Submission without sacrifice: a mother never gives death to her children, as the father has often done. Living for, from, and towards the idea (another trinity.)

12:50am May 5th – CATHARSIS

Here I am, pen trembling in my hand, preparing to confront an idea… I do not know how I know this… and I do not know why. But I will die before the rest. I feel every part of my being unwinding into its ideas. An idea which I am always at the edge of, forever drinking it in at top speed frantically trying to hand out sips to weary passengers along the way. An idea I am as yet building, as yet constructing… but still always shouting, raw and uncut the message is still strong enough. Let the others fill in the gaps I leave behind, while I burn out of existence.

Pneuma and aither: fire, breath and life. I put myself out at the end of a cigarette, always smoldering like hot ideas, sometimes meandering but always directed, if only by time: the fire in which we all burn. How to burn? How to die? Is there any choice in the matter, any longer?

Every sinew of my soul is torn between being a humble, loving, dedicated man, and a man who burns out into the idea. I am forever drawn to light (and a faithful pen or pencil) torn from my love, my life and every comfort, my every council, the lips I’ve ever searched for, the woman who shapes me in my entirety into an honest man. Here I am tortured and bereaved for the sense of looming loss…

It is my own. She will lose me. She will lose me. Who knows how. And I will lose everything thereby. The man, and the idea. Apollo was a god, that man will never be. Nietzsche is dead. My goddess is my woman. And my eternal pain is the sense that I will be her sacrificed son. She is stronger than I will ever be. And if and when I go I must know that I will live forever in her.

Open into the shamanistic. Death is a deeply introspective drug. It frightens us to our core, and I am no exception.  This is how I awaken in the morning, having confronted my death at night. I awaken into the idea. I awaken in order to write.

Five friends interrupt the all-encompassing everywhereness of the force, withholding their hospitality from the uninvited but always eventual guest. We seize the time to disengage with what arrives when upon it. Our inheritance is not our necessity. May the force free us from its shitty chatterbox comedy droids and the entire swelling opera of oppressive ideas, of mind-numbing cacophonious choruses, of crashes and clashes and enough action to blow your lungs out when you’re screaming down a highway in the desert in a top-down bright cherry red lipstick steel shark at a hundred miles an hour alternating between mescaline and ether cloths, chasing the ever elusive ‘American Dream’ (brought to you today by the one and only George Lucas, incorporated: “slap a sticker on that shit!”) – gonzo pop culture journalism mixed with philosophy and an anxiety over the existential. Sure the book was great, but you really should have been there, to unwind through an episode in time.

Let us cease to be a people at war. We are on a collective voyage: a journey; a trek. A discourse on justice stokes the embers of a new society – a society of the ideal. This idea is as old as the Socrates of Plato’s Republic, and has echoed through our history ever since. But it has become untraceable static, a silent hiss amidst the noise, its influence flattened as all is taken as its average by the background. Distill the static; better yet, change the channel. It is time for the next generation.