Virus in the Memeplex

A virus is a little packet of genetic material that in order to reproduce itself needs to infiltrate the reproductive machinery of a living organism. It does this by imitation of the lock-in-key mechanisms that protect the cells. It presses the right buttons and is then able to enter turning the host body into its reproductive organ.

The metaphorical viruses of the memeplex have a similar way of operation: they infiltrate by pressing the right buttons so they can then propagate through your sharing. Subtly poisonous notions can then slip in by piggybacking on something that is almost universally accepted/rejected: like the idea that children need to be saved from international pedophilia rings. Which is of course obviously true. But these memeplexes add something to it: they formulate scapegoats, and attempt to wield the rage it provokes into political reconfigurations. Projecting the hate into an amorphous cabal that is able to contain the whole spectrum of different groups that people hate: democrats, capitalists, jews, ICE, muslims, doctors, the MSM, Big Pharma, Big Everything and Big Whatever suits your fancy.

The memeplex does multiple things: first it attracts clicks making you included in the algorithms surrounding hashtags, connecting you to the other feeds that surround a certain memeplex: tricking the machines into changing your information diet. In this case QAnon conspiracies swarm around #savethechildren like a bunch of musquitos targeting everyone who is sensitive to the meme. Secondly, by punching you in the feels so hard your empathic powers are put on tilt, the more attentive and rational part of you is circumvented. Before you know it, the feeding troughs of social media are filled with the associations that have been swarming in the memeplex, and are able to enter your mind and that of your community without much resistance.

And then suddenly the yoga hippie flower children are converted to sharing alt-right QAnon conspiracy content. Suddenly the streets are filled with a strange mixture of a protest movement amorphously railing against ‘the system’, with neo-fascists standing shoulder to shoulder with antivax new agers and random angry Karens.

The viruses of the memeplex use certain information channels to slip in ideological content that is able to alter minds quite rapidly. Just take a moment to think about how your opinions have shifted since Corona, and how these alterations were introduced. And how the opinions of the people around you have changed. You think it’s by rational consideration of the facts? Or is there a more arcane process subtly shifting the associations you think you hold dear?

I suspect this metaphorical plague in the memeplex is more dangerous than Covid19 itself. The internet is turning into mental quicksand, subverting ideological associations on the double. Thus a reasonable resistance against an overbearing government can be perverted into a support for all kinds of ideological idiocy that claim to be best represent what it means to be against the system. And while everyone is arguing who the enemy really is, it is turning people against each other.

There has always been change and evolution/devolution in the memeplex. But since the internet special interests can significantly alter the pressure certain memes can exert over an entire memeplex. With botnets and fake accounts tricking algorithms into engagements which then starts pushing narratives unto people, altering their conception of the world step by step.

I am baffled by how quickly the past few months have changed some of you. Please take care to note the things that are slipped in between the lines, and how it’s putting all of our attention under siege.

Don’t let the memes do the thinking for you.


Thinking like a Dance

“I would only believe in a God that understood how to dance” Nietzsche wrote into the mouth of Zarathustra, after he was searching for the culprits who had murdered God. A dead God is a God who no longer breathes, who no longer speaks, who no longer dances. Whos existence can only be guessed at through the traces he left while alive: little prints on pieces of paper.

Most of the world’s religions pray to the God of the dead. Their priests, rabbis and imams are basically necrologists. Their bibles are books of the dead: memories of dead poets and dead prophets. And too many of them are prepared to kill in the name of their lord. Especially those for whom God is alive. History has been riddled with the pyres and crucifixes built for our prophets. Maybe these should be considered the true rites of their religion: honest to their true God… the rest is mere ceremony.

But anyway, I digress. This sermon was not the point of this post. I wanted to write a little something about this very interesting little essay on the collaborative work between philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and choreographer Mathilde Monner which sheds and interesting light on the relationship between thought and dance, thought and language, and the role of gesture that goes beyond the mere meaning of the words, and goes into the nature of thought itself. Which reminded me both of Nietzsche’s God and the famous lines from John 1:1 “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The reason I felt the need to introduce this topic with a little subversive sermon is because there seems to be a kind of necrophilia in thinking that extends way beyond religion, into many schools of philosophy and science, which in my opinion should be thoroughly and radically rejected. And this little piece on the dance of thought was the spark that released a bout of inspiration that has been building up this past week having had long conversations with my muse about all the ways in which I can get stuck in my head sometimes.

All too often thought is thought of as a kind of mirror, reflecting the things outside into representations within. The quest then becomes to clean the mirror, make the representations fit reality as cleanly as possible. The idea is that truth at some point can be claimed. That there is a state of knowledge that adequately captures reality. As if truth is something: that it is a thing… rather than a way of doing, a way of being. The responsiveness of mind can get lost in this game of mirrors. Just like us, we can get trapped in between the dead letters that are whizzing through our screens and through our minds.

The greatest sacrilege in the history of humanity has been the degrading of the Word to writing. Though I appreciate the gift of writing, and while I abuse it myself often and lovingly, the idea that writing can represent the Word, that it even has the ability to be true, is maybe the most profound trick that the proverbial Satan has pulled on us. The Word became flesh, not dead letters. This has brought about a profound alienation to our mind. A schism between gesture and meaning, which has the power to kill the dance that is at the heart of mind.

Inspired by the reading of Chris Watkin’s When I Think I Dance

The Tower and the Storm

The people are starting to see crosseyed because of the dank smell rising from the miasma that is the state of the world today. And crossed as they look, they project some kind of particular fantasy as being the source of this perversion. Historically, when a social evolution is turning on itself, when the noble ideals that once produced its greatness have turned into their own corruption, the people start looking for scapegoats. Some particular fantasy that is supposedly the carrier of the rot. Something to blame that can be cut out like a cancer sore.

But there is not one particular cause that can trace the source of corruption. The entire spirit of a people is affected. Different parts of the body are merely more or less infected by it, but they’re not the source of it. The trick is to trace what the types of social cancer have in common. There is a certain spirit to them all, that cannot be understood in terms of simple sources nor causes, except maybe by the dance that passes through them all. But finding the words to delineate this process is difficult, because it is something like a storm gathering overhead, a tension that is building, with only an occasional flickering of lightning illuminating the towering cumulus.

But what is the tower that needs to be struck down by lightning? What temple needs to be toppled? And what is it exactly to what we sacrifice in those temples?

The greatest illusion of secular society is that it has forgotten that it too is basically a cult: there has been a change of symbol and ritual, but there is still blood dripping down the steps of our temples… most people merely fail to recognise what are the holy sites of the power games that are played today. We can recognise a hint in that the tower central to ancient Babylon was both its religious, administrative and financial centre. The Roman Empire went in hiding in the catholic church, underwriting the feudal feuds between the fiefs of Europe, while giving shape to the spiritual bondage between them. The relationships between the people, the state and its religion is a tricky one, and not reducible to one institution or the other, but rather the complex flow between them all. Different individual parts are merely more or less possessed by what passes in between them. Some nodes in the network may have more influence than others, but those nodes might be considered to be more possessed by that power, rather than being the source of it: the spirit of the times being concentrated more intently there.

The concepts that seem most possessed by the corruption, are all hard to grasp in their own right, like money and the lust for power. Even though these are probably part of the reason why many of our industries are corrupted, it is not something easily understood. It is a whole thunderstorm upon itself, and many people are possessed by its energy even if they barely understand what it is that passes through them. Most people have no idea what money is, yet spend most of their waking hours working for it, barely recognising it is not working for them. They are thus suffering from the same spirit as those on top of the pyramid, but inverted… in the end it binds us all. The source of corruption is somewhere to be found in between them all.

This musing was inspired by the rumination below. It delineates one of the vectors of the the corruption that has taken hold in our temple: the tragedy of privation and the sacrifice of the commons.

Economics for the People, Against the capitalist creed of scarcity and self-interest, a plan for humanity’s shared flourishing is finally coming into view’

Image from Halsey’s “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” commissioned by Capitol Records

“Intuition is another word for the lacking willingness to think.”

“Intuition ist ein anderes Wort für fehlende Bereitschaft nachzudenken.”
Helmut Willke in Zur Rationalität der Intuition

It seems wildly popular these days to have disdain for thought. That we should instead trust our intuition, our ‘gut feelings’, our ‘heart’… which is supposedly a more pure manifestation of what, really? A connection to the pure world of Ideas? A channel to the wisdom of the Pleiades? A direct line to the thoughts of God himself? Which could only get clouded by thinking, infected by the poisonous illusions of duality, warped by the deformities of language?

Thought is tainted yes… it is receptivity and reflection in the shape of a warped mirror. It is the possibility of being affected, of being infected. It is a mirror that exists in the images reflected through it: tainted by the tints of imagination. But intuition hides what is on the other side of that mirror. It is the unreflected mirror’s knee jerk reaction that informs the quicksilver habits of the mind.

We would not be able to speak without the shorthand of intuition. It is a direct expression of the apparatus of implicit knowing: it is a machine comprising the fast paced habituation of our sense-making, that judges for us, before us even knowing what the thought process was. It is the dumbfounding capacity of our minds to compress an entire history of experience into one single moment, into the inkling of an intuition. And it is wonderful and deceptive precisely for this reason.

Intuition is rooted in the dark side of mind. Intuition emerges from the cobwebbed basement of thought: it is the gossamer spun from the unconscious collection of information, gathering the dust of all the impressions that are spinning in front of our eyes. It gives shape to the floor on which we stand, and woven from it is the carpet under which we shove what we like to hide from our view. From this we build the house of our mentality: the structure of our habituated thought process.

There is this old trope of the fear of the basement. The resistance against descending into the underworld; fear of the spiders in the corner, the skeletons in our closets, the play of shadows in the dark. This is the realm of the disavowed unconscious: it is the dark water on which our intuition is adrift.

The art of thinking is coming to terms with this play of shadows that lies at the heart of mind. It is the examination of the channels we have dug within ourselves, through which the waters of consciousness flow. These channels are not just personal, confined to the privacy of our individuality. There are entire trenches there dug by the machines of ideology, by the dogma’s of church, and the propaganda streaming through our news-feeds. The unconscious strappings of our intuition are connected in the transpersonal world wired web, through which our delta works of our thought are dug, effecting the flows of our minds, and the shape of our intuition.

So take care of your intuition. There is a deceptive undertow hiding there below the reflective surface. Do not take the reflections that pop up at face value, but examine them closely. Don’t get lost in them like Narcissus, but drink from the water, grow some roots there, or become the wind that blows over its surface.

Image: The High Priestess by Manzel Bowman, ‘Manzel Tarot’ 2017

The Misology of our Timeline

For the ancients to whom writing was still something of a novelty and the hight of magical craft, there was already a profound distrust to what it portends. Perhaps because those who mastered it were less likely to be mastered by it: they understood their craft. Nowadays, that reading and writing have become so normalised that everyone can more or less do it, people seem way more naive and susceptible to its power and effect. Moreover: during a quarantine where the interface of communication is no longer primarily face to face, and is replaced by a screen which is mediated and moderated by inscrutable algorithms: language has come under the threat of being bastardised even further from the living source that should be the father and mother of our thought.

In a world that has been ripped open and apart by the over saturation of information, we are drifting ever further away from the birthplace of language: dialogue. Some would say we have never been chatting so much, but they tend to forget that dialogue in writing is radically different than talking in living and breathing presence. Some have argued that the onset of social media has reinvigorated an oral culture, to the detriment of literary culture (it is said the kids can barely read anymore), because we are listening to the talking heads on youtube and their favourite podcasts…. but this is a profound misjudgement. In his critique of writing in Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates says:

”Writing shares a strange feature with painting. The offsprings of painting stand there as if they are alive, but if anyone asks them anything, they remain most solemnly silent. The same is true of written words. You’d think they were speaking as if they had some understanding, but if you question anything that has been said because you want to learn more, it continues to signify just that very same thing forever. When it has once been written down, every discourse rolls about everywhere, reaching indiscriminately those with understanding no less than those who have no business with it, and it doesn’t know to whom it should speak and to whom it should not.”

Phaedrus 275d

The same holds true for the videos we watch and the casts to which we listen: they might not be exactly silent, but they remain artefacts that continue to signify just that very same thing forever: they are not really present and will remain unresponsive. The artefact is alienated from context, and does not know to whom it is speaking. The presence of the listener is passive, with the information passing through them and into them, like a cul-de-sac, rather than a two way street. It is thus more akin to writing than it is to dialogue. The speech present in media is a bastard form of language, similar to how writing is a bastard form of language. And if the listener or reader is not careful, they threaten to become the dead-end of the process that is the bastardisation of thought: a vessel filled with dead letters and empty slogans that swarm the mind like a plague.

Earlier in the Phaedrus Socrates regales the Egyptian myth of how writing got introduced. How the god of artifice, of math, astronomy, games and dice: Thoth, offered his invention of writing to Thamus, the kind of the gods. “This invention, O king,” said Thoth,

“will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” to which Thamus replied “O most ingenious Thoth, the parent or inventor of an art is apparently not the most suited to judge the utility of his own invention. For you, who art the father of letters, because of your paternal love for your children, have been led to attribute to them a quality which they do not have. These letters will create a forgetfulness in the learner’s souls, because they will not use their memories, they will instead have faith in the external written characters. This writing which you have discovered is not an aid to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Phaedrus 274e

The strangest thing about our current time is that so many people hold their own opinions in such high regard, while they are blindly repeating the figments they’ve read or heard between the fodder in our news-feed feeding troughs. And then to imagine that writing in the time of Thoth and Themus was still in its infancy… nothing compared to the juggernaut it was to become. The cruel joke that would become of the apparent omniscience of those who hold the world’s library at their vinger tips, but regurgitate at hyper speed the lowest common denominator among them.

This article I read this morning by D.C. Schindler: ‘Social Media Is Hate Speech: a Platonic Reflection on Contemporary Misology’ about how social media is hate speech, or what is termed ‘misology’, similar to misogyny, but of logos, of thought, makes a crucial observation: “We are experiencing today, in our “social media” culture, a rather paradoxical phenomenon regarding language. On the one hand, we appear to trivialize speech in a manner that would have astonished earlier ages: not only do we broadcast every thought without discretion, but we do so with a patent disregard for form. On the other hand, we appear to absolutize speech in an equally astonishing way, extracting a person’s words or phrases in complete ignorance of concrete and historical context and loading them with a weight that exceeds their evident carrying capacity. Do we take words too seriously, or not seriously enough?”

I would say both: we take words way too serious, and not serious enough. We are way too naive concerning the effects of words on our conception of reality, and we take our crude understanding of reality to be worth way too much. We take our opinions as absolute, and deride those of others as the bleating of sheep. And then confine our media diet to only those that support us in our idiocy. All this contributes to the entrenchment of an already beleaguered state of thought, and makes it impossible to have dialogue, to step across from our limited state of mind and connect.

This is idiocy. Like I always like to tell my pupils: stupidity is not a lack of knowledge, but a surplus of lacking knowledge. Wisdom starts knowing you know shit. The realisation that you’re an idiot, that I’m an idiot, opens up the space for engagement… challenging each other and learning form each other. But everyone is acting like a little bitch: whingeing that respect means that we have basically nothing to say against each other’s limited perspective, because we supposedly have the right to our own opinion, on the one hand, and at the other deeming some opinions illegal to even consider.

I find it baffling the amount of people unfriending me because I had the audacity to engage with them. To take them serious enough to disagree with them… to take the time to think together, to have an attempt at dialogue and confront our own inner most stupidity and idiocy, and the lunacy that’s swarming around us. To stand still somewhat more slowly, and think. But apparently, people love their trenches, and will defend them rather than listening to each other, so as to be able to remain locked-down within their self.

When Socrates lived the ancient Greek world was crumbling: it stood on the precipice of turning into an empire. Its democracy had turned corrupt, swindlers abusing the powers of their speech to manipulate the machinations of power. Alexander the Great, pupil of Aristotle, would usher in a new era that ripped apart the world from Greece to the Indus Valley, divided amongst his Diadochi, bringing the cultures of the Hellenic world together under the aegis of the Greek, mixing together the Persian, the Egyptian and the Hebrew and countless forgotten tribes. Which was all gathered in the library of Alexandria, collecting the world’s knowledge… a mirror image of the tower of Babel, only to see it all burn to the ground and crumble into dust with the Romans and the Christians and their faith in dead letters.

It is a shame though so much of it is lost to memory, however distrustful we should be towards writing. To be able to reminisce is better than not to remember at all. The image of Thoth was sometimes that of an ibis, sometimes that of a baboon holding a crescent moon. People and their faith in writing often feel too much like fucking monkeys reaching for the moon. Especially those who came after this ancient world of heathens, and believed that God wrote books, and that books were holy, rather than the life and love that was in front of their eyes. They forgot all about that.

They still do forget about that, even now that people have lost their faith more generally: in God, in governments, in science, in the good. They seem to only still have faith in themselves and their stupid opinions. And even those are easily triggered, easily manipulated. The reason Thoth was imaged as an Ibis was that its beak looked like a crescent moon, and somewhere in stones of the ancient world it stood written: “the Ibises who are here, difficult is their food, painful is their mode of life.” I would like to end this sermon today by quoting Nietzsche: (check this for translation)

“Von allem Geschriebenen liebe ich nur das, was einer mit seinem Blute schreibt. Schreibe mit Blut: und du wirst erfahren, daß Blut Geist ist.
Es ist nicht leicht möglich, fremdes Blut zu verstehen: ich hasse die lesenden Müßiggänger.
Wer den Leser kennt, der tut nichts mehr für den Leser. Noch ein Jahrhundert Leser – und der Geist selber wird stinken.
Daß jedermann lesen lernen darf, verdirbt auf die Dauer nicht allein das Schreiben, sondern auch das Denken. Einst war der Geist Gott, dann wurde er zum Menschen, und jetz wird er gar noch Pöbel.
Wer in Blut und Sprüchen schreibt, der will nicht gelesen, sondern auswendig gelernt werden.
Im Gebirge ist der nächste Weg von Gipfel zu Gipfel: aber dazu mußt du lange Beine haben. Sprüche sollen Gipfel sein: und die, zu denen gesprochen wird, Große und Hochwüchsige.
Die Luft dünn und rein, die Gefahr nahe und der Geist voll einer fröhlichen Bosheit: so paßt es gut zueinander. Ich will Kobolde um mich haben, denn ich bin mutig.
Mut, der die Gespenster verscheucht, schafft sich selber Kobolde, – der Mut will lachen.
Ich empfinde nicht mehr mit euch: diese Wolke, die ich unter mir sehe, diese Schwärze und Schwere, über die ich lache – gerade das ist eure Gewitterwolke.
Ihr seht nach oben, wenn ihr nach Erhebung verlangt. Und ich sehe hinab, weil ich erhoben bin.
Wer von euch kann zugleich lachen und erhoben sein?
Wer auf den höchsten Bergen steigt, der lacht über alle Trauer-Spiele und Trauer-Ernste.
Mutig, unbekümmert, spöttisch, gewalttätig – so will uns die Weisheit: sie ist ein Weib und liebt immer nur einen Kriegsmann.
Ihr sagt mir: »das Leben ist schwer zu tragen.« Aber wozu hättet ihr vormittags euren Stolz und abends eure Ergebung?
Das Leben ist schwer zu tragen: aber so tut mir doch nicht so zärtlich! Wir sind allesamt hübsche lastbare Esel und Eselinnen.
Was haben wir gemein mit der Rosenknospe, welche zittert, weil ihr ein Tropfen Tau auf dem Leibe liegt?
Es ist wahr: wir lieben das Leben, nicht, weil wir ans Leben, sondern weil wir ans Lieben gewöhnt sind.
Es ist immer etwas Wahnsinn in der Liebe. Es ist aber immer auch etwas Vernunft im Wahnsinn.
Und auch mir, der ich dem Leben gut bin, scheinen Schmetterlinge und Seifenblasen und was ihrer Art unter Menschen ist, am meisten vom Glücke zu wissen.
Diese leichten törichten zierlichen beweglichen Seelchen flattern zu sehen – das verführt Zarathustra zu Tränen und Liedern.
Ich würde nur an einen Gott glauben, der zu tanzen verstünde.
Und als ich meinen Teufel sah, da fand ich ihn ernst, gründlich, tief, feierlich; es war der Geist der Schwere – durch ihn fallen alle Dinge.
Nicht durch Zorn, sondern durch Lachen tötet man. Auf, laßt uns den Geist der Schwere töten!
Ich habe gehen gelernt: seitdem lasse ich mich laufen. Ich habe fliegen gelernt: seitdem will ich nicht erst gestoßen sein, um von der Stelle zu kommen.
Jetzt bin ich leicht, jetzt fliege ich, jetzt sehe ich mich unter mir, jetzt tanzt ein Gott durch mich.”
Also sprach Zarathustra.