MANIFIESTO FOR A SOCIETY OF UNEASINESS

Václav Bělohradský

Umělec 1/2010 / cz en de. Ilustrated by Daniel G. Andújar. Umelec magazine. p 76-109

MECHANISMS

There are no facts in front of which we would be silenced in the same way as in front of a reality that appeared on its own, such that „there is nothing to talk about“. Builders of universal empires require an agreement between them to be announced as an agreement with reality itself. If they succeed, there will be a worldwide universal empire, which won‘t stand anything but „willing helpers“. …

The greatest contradiction of industrial society is the rational nature of its irrationality, its rational foolishness. The system’s ever-increasing level of productivity is accompanied by the ever more rapid destruction of ancient worlds; sovereign political power rests on the threat of nuclear holocaust; our thoughts and emotions are subjugated to the power strategies of large corporations; the helplessness of the majority increases in direct proportion to the enormous and unprecedented power of the privileged minority. A society filled with such contradictions can survive only because of the immense effectiveness of its controlling mechanisms, which rob us of the ability to perceive the system’s objectives and our role within it as an offense to human reason and feeling. “The mechanism by which the individual is bound to his society has itself been altered. Social control is grounded in the new needs which it has created.” We become the chief editor of a newspaper, we have a high salary, a person with a high salary must live in a house outside of Prague, we take out a loan on our high salary,

Democracy as a public debate over what is relevant in different situations is just an illusion – each situation is defined in advance, like the canned laughter in American sitcoms.

Democracy is in a stage of decline, it is slowly fading away; in its place we are seeing the emergence of Crouch’s “post-democracy,” whose main characteristic is the gradual replacement of the rule of law and parliamentary democracy with a network of efficient lobbying power structures whose aim is the implementation, through opportunistic bargaining, of rules of the game advantageous to the most powerful economic groups.

The efficiency of technology is increasing so rapidly that is rendering the very difference between the realm of means and the realm of ends an archaism: Are not the ends in themselves merely the means for the further expansion of technology?

Democracy is that form of social organization in which questions of frame are constantly left open; people are interested in them. Public space has its own unique tension, its effervescence, because it is here that opposing great truths are constantly encountering and controverting one another. Disputes about great truths are useful: they render us better and more open; they make our decisions more legitimate and superior in quality. In fact, the general availability of questions of frame and the public’s interest in them form a basic pillar of democracy.

UNEASINESS

There are many reasons for the sense of uneasiness in modern society. Above all, (…) there are the dizzying proliferation of signs, images, expressions and declarations, as a result of which there has been a sharp decline in reality. Many signs, little that is signified, many meanings, little that is meaningful, many parts, few wholes, many facts, little context, many copies, few originals, many images, little that is depicted, much talk, little agreement, many goals, little purpose, many representatives, little that is represented, many answers, few questions.

The sense of uneasiness is ever-present; it may not be strong, but it is persistent. No, we do not feel ill; there is just too much – information, food, garbage, people, packaging, books, signs, political programs, places to fly to on holiday, loan offers, excessively hot days in the year. There must be some kind of limit, some boundary beyond which the things of this world can no longer be used and consumed, but just venerated. We do not know where this boundary is; we just feel a little uneasy.

During the bird flu epidemic, shop sellers in Hong Kong wore sterile masks on their faces with a smile drawn on them. In late modern society, criticism is merely a “reproachful expression” drawn on invisible masks worn in public by the protagonists of sponsored cultural events. How to revive the fundamental virtue of liberal society – not being indifferent to critical images of itself? I do not know, and the fact that I do not know how to answer this question makes me uneasy. What good is an intellectual if he doesn’t know how?

THE WEST

(…) – those who wish to remain Europeans must never allow themselves to be controlled by the force emanating from everything that we unreservedly accept as “natural.” Understand well: liberally educated Europeans do not wish to deny their own prejudices, they merely wish to understand them in relation to time and place, to the problems that these prejudices were once meant to solve. Understanding liberates us from the power held over us by the perspective of the whole, in which the experience of historical conditionality has extinguished any notion of the whole.

The deepening environmental crisis, the scandalous helplessness of the industrial democratic countries in the face of extreme events – whether caused by anthropogenic climate change or natural climatic developments – the horrible state of the Third World, the hypocritical newspeak that calls aggression “preventive war” and the occupation of a foreign country “liberating a people from tyranny,” the restriction of civil rights through the “Patriot Act,” the ever closer alliance between entertainers and politicians in order to mobilize the masses for the further consumption of unnecessary things, the building of a “majority consensus” through the strategic control of the media – all this is a sign that wartime mobilization is the most intrinsic tendency of the system.
The Western political and economic system is extremist in its normality: the “peaceful days” enjoyed by the inhabitants of the West consist primarily in a war against nature and other forms of life.

NATO expansion is merely an attempt at masking the saber rattling of our civilizational crisis.

What strange victors, who have not resolved any of the issues the more effective resolution of which was at the heart of the East-West conflict: inequality among people is an ever-greater scandal for the “Christian West,” democracy is increasingly absent from the adoption of strategic decisions, loyalty questionnaires are a hundred pages long, capital exerts an ever more total control over public space, the atom bomb and technologically managed force continue to form the foundation of political sovereignty, NATO is expanding, the Schengen Agreement has fractured Europe into first-class Europeans, second-class Europeans, and the peons in the Balkans and Ukraine; all around us new invisible walls are springing up, and the Third World gets dirtier and hungrier, as do the peripheries of our affluent cities; ministry of defense budgets are growing, ministry of education budgets shrinking.

Is not the hatred of the “white us” in this historical world a normal answer to the way in which it has been invaded by this tolerant “white us”? The ruined, historical worlds that remain in the wake of his rule, collectively labeled the Third World – most of Africa, much of Asia and possibly Latin America as well – are nothing more than subjugated and exploited peripheries of the empire of global economic growth, whose shaken and rapidly weakening center is this “white us.”

The Global South is not just the Third World; anyone may find himself there who refuses to convert to the †bercivilization and who thus offers resistance to the empire of the growth of Growth.

Consumerism is a democratically uncontrollable automatism resulting from an uncontrolled demonic element of Western civilization: it is a type of rapture, a seductive shadow-world into which man throws himself in order to escape the contradictory world shown him by his reason.

“What is reason?” we ask when watching a long, motionless line of cars on the blocked highways when our cities declare a smog emergency, when our limited resources have been destroyed in order to produce superfluous things, when we discuss climate change caused by the greenhouse effect, when the front pages of all Czech newspapers announce the search for the next Czech Idol, when we see television images of long lines of people at exchange offices in South Korea, Argentina, or Moscow during various financial crises, when we watch reports from Malaysian cities where disappointed candidates for affluence are looting stores, or scenes from President Clinton’s Sexgate proceedings with Ken Starr trying to find the legal definition of sex..

The tyranny of values in industrial society necessarily leads to colonialism, concentration camps, the genetic manipulation of everything living, the reduction of nature to natural resources or its transformation into a laboratory filled with laboratory animals such as OncoMouseTM, a mouse that has been genetically engineered to be born with cancer so that it can be used for experiments. The ends must be bigger and bigger, so that the realm of means for their attainment – techno-scientific power – can continue to grow.

The most serious form of criticism is criticism of false consciousness. The most important feature of modern industrial society is alienation, in the sense that man does not know the laws of the world that he has created and thus enslaves himself through his products. Just as pre-modern man did not recognize that the gods were his imagination, so does modern man fail to see that the world of goods represents “his essential forces, transformed into objects, and a world that… enslaves him” (Marx).

TEXT

Is reading the art of identifying the meaning of a text as inserted by its author, or does a text receive its meaning from its readers, who try to come to some kind of mutual agreement as to a “meaningful” reading of texts?

In an era characterized by such a colossal overproduction of texts, we should be learning creative reading instead of creative writing. There has been a sharp decline in meaning and a sharp increase in the number of texts. If we do not learn to read them creatively, they will swirl around us like a dark shroud of whirling dust.

The theory of the implied reader is generally applicable. Every person is a text in search of its implied reader, everyone hopes that someone will read him just as he has written himself, as he has imagined the acts and ideas that he has encoded into his life. It is true that often this does not happen, and the cities are full of drunks mumbling: “Joe, you can ask anyone; I’ve never been a coward, that’s just Wendy talking trash about me!”

Today, networks of computers are capable of spewing forth all possible combinations of symbols and letters in a matter of seconds. I am sure that even such texts long for their implied reader. But how to become one? Let us conclude a new agreement on the reading of texts during the era of globalization! Yes, but with whom, where, and what about?

People are made up of statements; they are surrounded by them. All that they have said and heard whirls around in a jumbled mixture consisting of their truths and the truths about them. Each statement belongs in some landscape of statements and has meaning only if it can be used for something within this landscape. Statements that are of use within a landscape are called truths; those that stand in the way are called mistakes or lies. Some statements can act as bridges in the landscape, others as levers, shortcuts, artificial lakes, or shelters. These landscapes of statements also contain many ruined truths, some of which have been wasting away for ages, while others have collapsed suddenly, people fleeing their ruins in panic. They are also home to many truths that entangle people like spider webs, the spider patiently waiting; some truths – such as the belief in hell – are traps laid eons ago; others are new, designed using computers – economic growth, nuclear energy, financial flows.

We learn to navigate the overgrown corners of our landscapes of statements under the supervision of our teachers, for these corners are inhabited by ill-fated poets and delirious thinkers, angry young men, long-haired rockers, and eccentric scholars who look after all the weeds and shrubbery but who have not managed to avoid expressing doubts and making heretical statements. Sometimes the voice of our conscience chases us into these corners, we take a liking to them, and remain.

Over the past millennia we have combined a desert biblical landscape full of shepherds, farmers, and seedsmen with extravagant statements made by participants of Greek gay parties and homosexual libations – thus was born Christian philosophy; in the name of the Renaissance, we smuggled the Greek concept of beauty into our Christian landscape, constructed bridges of statements between the claims made by the crucified prophet from Palestine and the Englishman Darwin, or between the vocabulary of stockbrokers and the verses of Otokar Březina. They are flimsy bridges, but they can be crossed. Without interpretations, the West’s landscapes of statements would not hold together, they would be contradictory and filled with garbage, their boundaries would be unclear, we would not understand relationships and contexts.

Pilate’s famous question (the only sentence in the Gospels that makes sense, wrote Nietzsche) has long changed its addressee. What is truth? we today ask the scientist adding meal from dead cows to the feed of live cows, and what we mean to say is: Do you know the boundaries of the landscape to which your statements belong?

GROWTH

Industrial growth is war.
Will the century of extremes ever end?
American author Don DeLillo wrote:
“While watching the first day of the attack on Iraq on television, with the smart bombs exploding in the center of Baghdad, I got the sense that technology itself forces us into war, that it has the need to realize everything that can be realized. Our Progress needed to blow off steam in that attack, with unprecedented precision.”
The drive for war is encoded in the products that shape our daily life; everything that we take into our hands contains the need to “blow off steam.” After 1989, there was a brief period of hope that the drive for war inscribed into technological and economic growth could be overcome.
We were mistaken.

A civilization of economic growth reduces all meaning to nothing more than a Great Objective; the greater the objective, the more capital (accumulated energy, work, resources, and the efficient use thereof) is required. Today, meaning has become hopelessly merged with the great objectives of Euro-Atlantic technological civilization – economic globalization, star wars, space travel, living to be a hundred illness-free.
Everything must contribute to the growth of capital – even protests against its absurdity. Are you protesting? That is your right, but you will have to purchase your means of protest from us! How to resist capital without promoting its growth? How to express and implement the difference between meaning and mere objective?

What is the point of freedom, reason, and education if, no matter what, we are all dragged along by the relentless automatism of the economic growth of Growth, which nobody is capable of giving human meaning?

Is there any meaning to the endless devastation of the planet, the world’s transformation into a pile of garbage, the tyranny to which the Third World is subjected in the name of controlling raw materials? Growth is not a universal good, as claimed by the council of globalization that meets in Brussels or Washington.

COMMUNISM AND CAPITALISM

Is capitalist globalization a new “grand narrative” that we tell ourselves at the end of the era of nation-states, whose expansion had been the subject of all the grand narratives of the past two centuries? Is it a new “recognized necessity,” the only resistance to which comes from irresponsible extremists or the classes marked for extinction?

A system founded on private ownership has a “big dirty secret” – capitalists never pay the full costs of their “private” business. A large share of the costs is paid by people who in some way are affected by what the capitalist does with his property but who lack the legal means to influence his activities. A company uses water from a river, but its production costs do not include expenditures caused by the fact that other people have to adapt to the impacts of its business activities – changes in water quality, for instance. This is the vicious circle of democratic policy: the oligarchies that have achieved a hegemony in society support the governments, who in exchange for this support happily allow them to transfer their private costs onto society at large. Through the use of state and police control, governments preventively take away their citizens’ rights to legally protest the capitalists’ unpaid accounts.

I called my first book of reflections from the nineties Capitalism and Civic Virtues. The “and” between the market and virtues is a very fragile bond, one that is constantly threatening to come apart. In the second half of the 1990s, to cries of “Globalization, globalization!”, several fanged monsters began gnawing away at this bond – successfully, as the “global financial crisis” has shown.
Communism was not disarmed by capitalism; it collapsed because the bond between politics and civic virtues was severed. In Plato’s Apology, we read that “virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private (…)”. Renewing the bond between “virtue and money” may be a long process, but it is the only possible solution to the current “global crisis” and future crises as well.

And now the same, but in a more erudite manner. We use the word “externality” to label various ways in which costs are transferred onto others and the word “internality” to describe ways of rectifying such forms of inequality. The expression “legitimate disregard” is used to describe the fact that people do not have the legal right to fight business activities whose externalities are causing them harm.
Right-wing ideology and politics then take up the struggle for the greatest possible level of legitimate disregard. Through their ideological apparatuses, right-wing parties work to create a majority consensus for those governments that allow the oligarchy in whose interests they govern to transfer as much of their costs as possible onto all of society.

In right-wing discourse, the word “freedom” means the right of private owners to use their property with the greatest possible level of disregard towards others.

“If we limit the right of the owners of private property to transfer a part of their costs onto all of society, this restricts the rights of all because free enterprise is the most important form of freedom in society!” – cries the Right. And the Left answers: “We are constantly expanding the right of “citizens” to protest against the failure by the owners of private property to pay their bills. One day you, too, will be affected by the impacts of some “capitalist’s” business activities, and not being a helpless victim is the most important form of freedom in society.”

hyper-bourgeoisie
This word, which is borrowed from French sociologist Denis Duclos, describes a “transnational” elite working to abolish first the democratic welfare state, and subsequently all restrictions by which the nation-states have fettered economic rationality over the past two centuries. The hyper-bourgeoisie is “anti-cultural”: it delegitimizes traditions, national memory and shared lifestyles, it censors all that is capable of resisting financial capital, which redefines in its own interest the plus and minus values historically assigned to things, words, landscapes, and interpersonal relationships.

The bourgeoisie was a part of a nation and acted within the history of that nation; it was bound, morally and historically, by the solidarity that brings together societies of a national language. The hyper-bourgeoisie, on the other hand, attacks all historical societies from the outside. Its global power is a lightning-fast “raid, plunder, and run;” the obligations arising from a shared language or national solidarity would only serve to restrict it. Investments managed by the global nomenklatura can quickly and inexorably change the value which human societies have assigned to landscapes, things, symbols, interpersonal relationships – nothing and no-one may restrict them in the name of solidarity among people or earthlings within the broadest meaning of the word. The hyper-bourgeoisie and its paid hyper-nomenklatura (employees of the EU, NATO, WTO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, PR hyper-corporations, and certain research institutes) form a “transnational class” – they do not acknowledge any obligations towards the nation whose language they are currently using and on whose territory they are enforcing their strategic interests.

The phrase “an irrational society of rational individuals” captures the fact that in late industrial society, the whole of all individuals acting rationally or working to maximize their own success forms an insane society; rational individuals work to maximize their profits, but taken together they form an insane society, one example being global warming.
Put differently: the more rational people are as individuals, they more insane they are as a society. One convincing example of collective stupidity is the private automobile: for each individual, it is advantageous to drive to work in his own car; traffic jams and highway accidents are the irrational result of this individual rationality.

total market
I use this term to define the expansion of market rationality beyond all national, ethical, and social boundaries. Technological environment lowers the cost of moving anything – information, knowledge, materials, companies and their manufacturing output. There exist thousands of individuals capable of performing my job better and for much lower pay, and in a technological environment it is cheap to send my job to them.

The total market insists that everything that is “technologically possible” be “for sale” as quickly as possible, because it will not tolerate any rational goal for man other than the “maximum consumption of what is sold.” First of all, the total market conceals the actual price of the consumed good – mineral water or fruits produced thousands of miles away and transported to your local hypermarket have intolerably higher environmental costs than locally produced water or fruits. And secondly, it requires censoring all questions regarding the biological, moral, and social sustainability of technologically realised (realisable) human choice.

Our century of extremes has been most deeply marked by the bloody conflict between dead capital and live human work, between the meaning and price of work. This conflict has not been resolved; the entertainment industry has merely postponed it indefinitely.

In the age of globalization, a new Marx will have to slightly alter the introductory sentence to his critique of political economy: “The wealth of global bourgeois society, at first sight, presents itself as an immense accumulation of worlds. Everyone can choose into which world he wants to be lulled to sleep, and by whom.”

I believe that the historical catastrophe of communism was the result of a lack of diligence in the face of reality, in the face of the structure of human existence; it resulted from a terrible overestimation of the “revolutionary act” of forcing a form of existence on people that they could only feign in an artificial world – a world in which they cannot live without a vast coercive apparatus.

Communism was not the same as Nazism, as the dogmatic warriors for the capitalist system claim. It was a grand project of modernism whose promises came to naught because of the resistance of the historical world in which these ideas were to be implemented; the communists lacked the necessary patience and so they declared the representatives of this resistance to be “enemies of mankind” and eradicated them. As a result, they found themselves in a terrible contradiction with the ideas that had been the source of their historical legitimacy.

As the discrepancy between democratic ideal and oligarchic reality grows, current global capitalism increasingly resembles communism..

GLOBALIZATION

The earth is sown with wonders of technology, into which it is slowly sliding.

Today, we describe the planet-wide expansion of industrial modernity using the already devalued word “globalization.” That aspect of globalization that, in terms of its radicalism, we view as a threat like no other before is the detachment of techno-scientific-economic growth from the right of the public to ask, “what meaning is there to it?” This demand for meaning stands in the way of the automatic cumulative growth of knowledge and power, and is thus suppressed from the public realm as illegitimate, extremist, or proto-terrorist.

Since the early 1990s, capitalism has been undergoing a dangerous mutation – it is globalizing, becoming, in the words of Karel Kosík, a “supercapitalism.” Democracy is too closely bound to the values that form the foundation of the nation-state; supercapitalism drains democracy by draining it of its sovereignty: free public space, civic independence, a natural shared language, and anti-conformist and transversal communication are beginning to stand in the way of the growth of global uniformity, which cannot abide any limitations or boundaries. Ralf Dahrendorf speaks of the “Singapore Syndrome,” the danger of the emergence of an authoritarian capitalism controlled by a “globalized nomenklatura” composed of the largest financial institutions, the arms industry, Eurobureaucracy, multinational corporations, and the managers of the media elite.

Is there such a thing as a global culture capable of giving globalization a humanly comprehensible objective? Globalization has three central symbols – the atom bomb, the environmental crisis, and a planetary media network. All national cultures are trapped in this triangle, while the technocratic spider sucks them dry. The philosophical question of the time is whether there is any civilizational competence. By this, I mean the ability to respond to the abrupt relativization of all national cultural models by finding some kind of shared “grammar.”

The post-bipolar world is controlled by structures whose focus is not on the meaning of the exercise of power, but on the growth of power.

(…) in a society of global growth, there is a growing community of people brought together by a “shared sense of absurdity.”

FROM THE HISTORY OF MODERNITY

Being an individual is nothing natural. It is the result of a long educational process that began in Greece, when man broke free from the world of myth he had taken for granted; this process strengthened under the pastoral power of Christianity, which taught each person to examine himself, to have a conscience, to struggle with his body, to see himself as a unique and unreproducible individual. The strict maxim of cogito ergo sum commanded man to always start from his awareness/self-confidence, which raises him not only above other living creatures, but also above the infinity of the cosmos. Then the Earth began to turn and man was spun off from the center of the universe to the periphery of the Milky Way, but his self-confidence grew; then came the era of progress and Enlightenment, which taught man to trust his own experiences and not allow himself to be confounded by holy authority or the power of the majority.

(…) the word “globalization” is connected to the word “postmodernity,” which we use to describe the time between the first and the second modernity. The first modernity was a massive hoax perpetrated by a powerful discursive machinery controlled by the officials of modern pastoral power – educators, teachers, poets, psychiatrists, experts in the human sciences, engaged intellectuals, ideologists – all of whom worked to make sure that the phrase “industrial growth” and all sub-phrases derived therefrom would have a higher, inner, figurative meaning in addition to its literal, material, outer meaning: the development of production tools and the accumulation of products in the form of goods. Their work ensured that the metaphor inscribed within this word in booming verse and ornamental lettering was kept alive, and that the figurative meaning of the word “growth” would rule over its literal meaning (the higher controlled the lower, the spiritual the material).
The emergence of the society of communications overload, in which an ever larger number of subcultures has their say, made the omnipresent hypocrisy of this hoax readily apparent. The powerful representatives of the “demands of the spirit against the demands of the material base” reduced themselves to a grotesque preaching mafia, and the first modernity came to an end.

The era of postmodernity between the first and second modernity is characterized by a preoccupied lack of awareness of the fact that the metaphors that had previously given all events a higher meaning are fading away. We do not dare see our new “grand narrative” within the permanent darkness; the recently declared “end of grand narratives” still applies.

In the period between the first and second modernity there are landfills containing the waste of the first modernity everywhere. This waste has its beauty: in the random interplay of shapes, sounds, and images we can often glimpse the old “figurative meaning”, distorted, out of place, superfluous. Yes, the instability of events abandoned by the grand metaphors of the first modernity – this is the aesthetic of postmodernity. This installation of extinguished meaning reveals not only the unyielding prosaism of global circumstances, but also the mass nostalgia for the metaphoric world that once glittered in the word “Enlightenment.” In Petr Zelenka’s film Wrong Side Up, a sculptor installs a work at a gallery belonging to a man who used to narrate newsreels under communism. The audience is fascinated by the words that are the residue of those images, she repeats, taken by his words. An allegory of our relationship to the loss of meaning between the first and second modernity.

The culture of the second modernity is being formed during a time defined by the motto “There is no culture,” and the new grand narrative is being shaped during a time defined by the motto “There is no grand narrative.” The second modernity will begin once the fading of metaphors, the sudden dusk of grand slogans, the proliferation of boundless peripheries, and the unexpected fluctuations and mixing of codes, places, and things become our new grand narrative.

The bipolar world of the Cold War was simple: there is plenty of time for peace and democracy, but first we have to defeat their enemies. The two systems did not differ from each other in anything essential, both were the largest global protagonists of the world’s transformation into a pile of resources at our disposal, even if the “capitalist” pile was more diverse and its consumers freer in digging around in it as they wished.
The Cold War is over, but the need to postpone peace, democracy, and the question of the meaning of this constantly growing mass of phenomena and things at our disposal endures. The question of the growing absurdity of the civilization of the growth of Growth does not fit into the global players’ strategies; what they need is another more or less cold war so that they may again put off, until some distant “later,” answering the question of the overall framework of the world in which we are imprisoned; what applies now are wartime priorities, people must be a priori suspected, inspected, monitored – the enemy lurks everywhere.

We live on the edge of giant landfills of used information and images, discharged contexts and worn-out clichés, semiotic wrecks and dilapidated linguistic traditions.

FROM ACTUALITY TO THE END

The difference between modernity and tradition has been a central theme of the past three centuries: historians tell the history of the world as a sequence of stories about when, where, and why the old world came to an end and “modernization” took off – the victory of reason, the rule of scientists of managers. In some places, this end came earlier, in some, later; in some places, people resisted it; many were murdered. All these stories lie about the most fundamental aspect of the matter. Modernity is not a new thing. It is merely a new name for the old religion of the West, which we call the “Cult of the Actual” – Christianity and modernity are its two main forms.

The end of the old times is coming at an ever faster pace, an everlarger number of people are liberating themselves from the darknesses of the past, say the chroniclers of the modern era. And with them, Siemens, Ford, General Motors, Boeing, IBM, NASA, and their (all) newspapers. Believers of the Actual are doomsayers prophesizing various ends of the world; they point at one thing or another in our world – scientific knowledge, for instance – and cry, “through this, the old world will end forever.”
The dogma of the Believers of the Actual is well-known: The present is different from the past, time is not cyclical like the time of plants and animals, but it is rolling inexorably forward to its end, beyond which lies the new world. Anything that repeats itself is without meaning – the stars circling above our heads according to their unyielding laws, the seasons of the year. The cogito-subject wanders aimlessly through his history, but it is an exalted wandering with a glorious end – death (misery, lack of education, sickness) will be defeated. The word “actual” describes the chasm between the past and the mesmeric NOW, where everything is new, including man. Christians are the most dangerous Believers of the Actual, the accelerated end of the world is their genetic disorder, their heretical euphoria, their effervescence that prevents them from awaiting the end of the world in peace.
Actuality is merely another name for Paul’s “death has been vanquished.”

Jan Patočka wrote that the Christian faith is not the meaning sought for and found by man, but the meaning “dictated from the hereafter.” This concept of meaning as a dictate from “the hereafter,” as a revealed truth that triumphs over the “temporal world of shadows, mortality, and insecurity,” unites all Believers of the Actual within one large tribe. Even venerated Western science in its temples – laboratories, universities, multinational corporations – glorifies its statements as being “objective” (i.e., dictated) facts, and thus it, too, is just one of several ways of worshipping the religion of the Actual. Only that can be actual which hails from world other than the one that we see with our eyes, the one in which we die and in which we are constantly erring and in fear: only that is objective which is guaranteed, like a message from the hereafter, with a firm foundation in a netherworld accessible only to scientists dressed in their white coats. The modern Believers of the Actual replace the good word of the Almighty Father with the dictate of scientific empiricism.

The Cult of the Actual has its origins in Greek philosophy; it is the legacy of the fable of the “true world” that a delusional Plato once told his tribe. … Plato saw “pure spirits” behind all things, and the elders of the tribe of Greeks were unable to convince him otherwise. Not only that, but they succumbed to this delusional belief themselves, and so Plato triumphed and founded the dreadful religion of the Actual, whose believers did not celebrate as real the visible and transient things around us, but the invisible ideas behind them, things we do not see with our eyes but with our reason. For the crackpot Plato, reason is something like an eye through which we see the true world behind the shadows of this one.
As we know from various sources, plenty of people tried to talk Plato out of his delusion. They pointed out that they could see tables, trees, and people, but not the idea of a table or of a person. Plato arrogantly retorted: “No wonder, for you have eyes, but no intellect.” He would probably have lost his arguments had the tribe of Greeks not succumbed to the Romans and the Romans to Christianity, which packaged Plato’s delusional world into their popular fable about a good Father who sacrifices his own son out of love for Man and then celebrates victory over death in the hereafter; this is the “Good News” (evangelium) that the Almighty Father sends us through his Son, incarnated as a mortal.
Nietzsche’s statement that “Christianity is Platonism for the people or for the poor” reminds us of the reason why the fable of the true world was victorious – there were more poor people, they were hungry and impatient and afraid of death. … the tribe of white men believed in Plato’s netherworld and began to destroy this one. Not a Greek was found who would put his hand on Plato’s shoulder and kindly tell him – that’s just your delirium talking, seeing eternal ideas behind everything. And so this delirium has been the normal state of white men for two thousand years as they summon the end of the world. Their world.

The Believers of the Actual have summoned the age of desperation, the Earth is going to waste, all that is around us becomes a trap, and our much-vaunted reason builds factory farms. We have succumbed to our Plato and associated the meaning of life with the end of the world. And the end is near. Our cities reek, the French coast – Cézanne, van Gogh, Utrillo, Picasso! – is covered in a black mass, more and more seabirds are dying encased in a shell of oil, there are Temelíns on every horizon. The sectarian Believers of the Actual firmly shut their eyes before these ends.
What a strange story it was! Plato left the cave, followed by the entire Academy, St. Paul exhorted the impatient Thessalonians – first in good will, but later the borders burned and the stench of scorched human flesh was everywhere – later still, Galileo turned the Earth under our feet, Newton calculated how things move, where they are moving, and the effect of this motion, Einstein ordered parallel lines to intersect, the cyborg beckons with its virtual arm, hearts are transplanted from one body to another, the globalizers have firmly bound us with an invisible fiber, a butterfly flapping its wings in our valley causes hurricanes on the other side of the world, there is a hole in the ozone layer through which the Sun fries us like the millionaire in Wolker’s unforgettable fairytale.
Hell hasn’t frozen over; instead, the ice is melting. The unhappy end is near.

WOMAN AND MAN

Philosophers have spent millennia arguing about the sex of angels, but what about the sex of reason? For more than two thousand years, reason was a primary male sexual characteristic, but today it passes as neuter. God is father and mother, Pope John Paul II once said. Reason has its male and female side, the philosophers say conciliatorily. But the French flag is not neuter, nor are generals, managers, judges, or the architect of Temelín. These are male roles. Like the African in Sartre’s example, woman must speak in her own voice and say roughly this: Male civilization is a catastrophe; it is missing a large piece of reality, it is narcissist and hurtling into an abyss.
Women in Central Europe have not spoken with their own voice; it was too bloody and cruel here. There was fear. But many men here taught us to identify the voice of women within the clamor of the male world. For instance, Karl Kraus saw woman as an anti-Platonic being, rebelling irrepressibly against the male world of pure ideas that subjugated the real world with insatiate abstractions such as Law and Order. He studied the trials of women who had rebelled against their families, and in the “sinfulness” which the court of respectable men ascribed to these women he saw a liberating primal force that rejected the recent era of manipulation and prostitution. In 1929 he wrote: “You know that all my life I have persecuted spiritual prostitutes, but never the prostitution of the female body. Towards the end of the time that I have been allotted in order to learn the things of this world, I assert that sex is probably the only activity that does not prostitute itself in this world, and that we have affixed the stigma of prostitution onto women in order to distract attention from male prostitution in all vocations.” At the pinnacle of male prostitution is the Media, which robs us of our imagination and empties our hearts. Kraus believed that in their fight against the Media’s emptying of the heart, women use their bodies, all their instincts, and their most individual voice.

I imagine that women’s voice will help us avoid two traps of reason. The first trap is reason in the singular, which alone can discover eternal and universal truths, and which therefore must be codified by the state and professed by all citizens. Truths of reason in the singular raise man above all other living beings with which we share the planet. I believe that, through their touch, women teach us from childhood (even when their lessons are censured) that reason is just one of the human senses, and not lord over them. Reason is a piece of our body. When we watch a landscape tortured by poisonous vapors, reason protests within our body. “That is but feminine reason,” people used to say. Yes, feminine reason! There are as many reasons as there are reasons for the living bodies of all species to rise up against Law, Order, Structures.

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