In a conversation about American ideals of freedom, Marm posted this:
What if we WEIRD moderns have become enslaved to and hypnotized by the dogmatic script of individual freedom? In such a heavily scripted society such as ours, our greatest hope for freedom might simply be in our awareness of and relationship to these scripts, which on a practical level means Benjamin Libet’s veto power. This is a greater concern for Americans living as they do in the WEIRDest of WEIRD societies.
While I’m not familiar with Libet’s work, this did rhyme with an article I’m reading about European debates on the meaning of freedom and art, especially this passage, which I hope will clarify terms I’ve used ( rather clumsily ).
Aesthetic thought wanted to become operative in the real world and transform it—as in Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man—by proposing a different assemblage of the conceptual and the sensuous, in which the latter is an equal partner rather than a kind of id that needs to be overcome by triumphant reason. If aesthetic experience has a specific autonomy, as Jacques Rancière maintains, this autonomy emerges as a practice of resistance to the autocracy of reason.
The latter is always ready to morph into mere purposive rationality, into an automaton-like implementation of a ratio that cannot be argued with—as in the laws of the “free market,” for instance. In fact, today autonomy seems to be located anywhere except on the part of human agency, having become post-human—this is autonomy as automatism, usually presented to the populace as an objective Sachzwang, usually in the form of “saving the economy” or “saving the banks” or “saving the euro” because “there are no alternatives. ”
Prime early 2000s aesthetic warehouse here. A strapping eunuch face recoils into ancient marble death merchant of sprite turning young men into informants against their friends’ taste in fashion and music– teenagers involved in this video later died in japanese elastic cubicles of aerosolizing sex diseases, while the living electrical Sprite escaped, embalmed in preservative mirrors.
bitumen childhood ghost of fingers tracing brushed fizz of television the shot seen. the constant frustrated intercourse with teen soft drink flesh is why they must constantly innovate and expand and tie up and blast off in sponsered titanics.
Entering a Borges esque journey of the director as well as his documentary subject- this world of former car salesman with coke etched faces working focus groups for obviously bored and uncomfortable teens earning bux in the gig economy circa 2003 America , answering some stilted questions with even more stonewalling. Never has my life as an aesthetic activist felt so futile as when they gave him another withering stare after he asks from a stool ( character portraits and landscapes) ” so whats hot right now?”. Obliging the vulturous adults with colored in marker fumes which brand logo they thought was cool.
Our retinal yawns consume the caramelized embalming in real time of American bubbly sprite flesh.
Thomas Flatman poems
All that I need sweet popeye’s steam to refuel my zoolak. Double remove pan to sprite logotype receding into distance. Pull back no one to walk away from the phonolens.
One of the reasons I still tinker with writing fiction and narratives is the creation of characters that can fulfill some heroic type without the anti-heroism that’s become its own cynical cliche ( perhaps someone can be a hero while still being a fuck up like Elric, who is too opposed to fate and curious about the various worlds he inhabits to be a true anti-hero). But the real heroic test in the modern world is writing that demands extremes be entered into by the writer as well as the audience. Ligotti’s narrations of human minds that could be anyone in modern capitalism carried to a breaking point by cosmic malice operating in the form of vague authority figures is writing that takes suffering seriously and doesn’t deny complicity. More and more I feel this is the best kind of writing in the modern world.
In those moments, which were eternal I assure you, I had no location in the universe, nothing to grasp for that minimum of security which every creature needs merely to exist without suffering from the sensation that everything is spinning ever faster on a cosmic carousel with only endless blackness at the edge of that wheeling ride. I know that your condition differs from mine, and therefore you have no means by which to fully comprehend my ordeals just as I cannot fully comprehend yours. But I do acknowledge that both our conditions are unendurable, despite the doctor’s second-hand platitude that nothing in this world is unendurable.
Thomas Ligotti- “Teatro Grottesco”
Gaius turned his hairy frame from both Jupiter and his forefathers to take up the worship of the Moon goddess with his usual goat-like impudence. For the moon dappled orchards of the Huntress Diana are tended by me, a former slave who gained his office with sword in hand, and one who will lose it in that posture. Ask any Romans who haven’t been torn from their natural reason by the threat of Caligula’s hooks, and they’ll tell you the same.
In an important sense, Gaius has lost a freedom I will carry to my death at the hands of another claimant of my title as King of the Grove. Hardly anything else could be expected from a man who ascended to the status of Princeps after being raised on an island of decadence by Tiberius, the man he believed responsible for the death of his father (1). Gaius Germanicus Caesar Augustus orders his name and likeness stamped on statues and pipes in all the workshops; he twists and extends his name so distantly that it will cease to bear any good currency before long.
1. ‘people talked of the old goat’s den – making a play on the name of the island’. – Suetonius, Twelve Caesars https://blog.oup.com/2014/11/roman-emperor-tiberius-capri-suetonius/
In a short aside mentioning Caligula’s penchant for envy towards anyone, Suetonius records that “(he) sent a stronger man to challenge the current King of the Grove”. This Grove turns out to be somewhat different* from the many sacred groves scattered throughout the ancient world. The Romans were not averse to destroying forests for civil or military engineering needs, but they also held piety as one of the highest virtues.
Thus they were the ones to record this act of Gaius Caligula as an insane crime. Given the Roman obsession with auguries, I wonder if anyone made the claim ( in much later years, and under the right Emperor) that this act was a portent of the dreaded year of 4 Emperors to come. The Romans believed that avian auguries were superior to any other for divining matters of state, so perhaps it was overlooked. The practice of bird calling for ritual purposes is still practiced by Tibetan Buddhists today.
* From the revised Robert Graves translation- “In Latin: Rex nemorensis; the priest of Diana at her sacred grove (nemus) near Aricias, south east of Rome. The position was held by an escaped slave, who killed his predecessor and would in turn be killed by his successor”.
He tried to out-drink the Emperor and found more than his tongue tied.
I once swam with a horse, a noble horse indeed.
Objectification? I always clothe the statues of my favorite horses!
Is it not art when you carve statues out of reluctant servants?
Objectification? I’ve smashed more statues than you could carve!
We must flood the city to cleanse it of my predecessor’s perversion and filth. Will you not maintain silence near the royal horses, or are you eager to be flogged?
TW- Vulgar parody and foulness
The voice droned through the foggy night and seemed to dissipate like dust from long shuttered halls and galleries. It intoned words with a portentous severity. In my weakened and disheveled state, I found it easier to listen through the floorboards. It droned, “Listen bucko- it’s not enough to be some hot young fuck anymore, not in this world. Do you think that fancy pants dancing stuff you wanna show off like a tasseled helmet is something that qualifies you as a man?”
“Get your act together”.
The immense sound of a brick wrapped in microphones thundered and drowned the nasal baritone of the lecturer’s voice. Then I was jolted into stark panic as a blaring shriek ripped through the phantom auditorium beneath the floorboards—
“Those little ninnies who think it’s all about putting some tush and tits into their walk and fashion spreads had better think again—that might work on a few bozos but any man who qualifies as the genuine article wants a woman who would never lower herself to man-like strutting , who can walk home pregnant and deliver on her own without complaint, then raise that little dripper into a genius ready for private school a week after his cord’s snipped!” . “Here here”, came a weak croak.
“Are you going to sit around as the world goes by? What about when the night is so black that it cooks in darkness? ” shuddered the droning voice. It continued to squeak and to drone into the cool night air: “You’ve got to button yourself up and commit to work like those dads who stayed away from their homes to spend 30 million dollars producing the big sequel to the Space Invaders motion picture!”