Sunday, April 13, 2008


"The historic avant-garde (but here I would also consider avant-garde a metahistorical category) tries to settle scores with the past. "Down with moonlight"--a futurist slogan--is a platform typical of every avant-garde; you have only to replace "moonlight" with whatever noun is suitable. The avant-garde destroys, defaces the past: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is a typical avant-garde act. Then the avant-garde goes further, destroys the figure, cancels it, arrives at the abstract, the informal, the white canvas, the slashed canvas, the charred canvas. In architeture and the visual arts, it will be the curtain wall, the building as stele, pure parallelepiped, minimal art; in literature, the destruction of the flow of discourse, the Burroughs-like collage, silence, the white page; in music, the passage from atonality to noise to absolute silence (in this sense, the early Cage is modern).
But the moment comes when the avant-garde (the modern) can go no further; because it has produced a metalanguage that speaks of its impossible texts (conceptual art). The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently."

Umberto Eco, "'I Love You Madly,' He Said Self-consciously", The Truth About the Truth, Pg. 32

Monday, April 7, 2008

The addiction

"Civilization is our Pusher. It's The Man who keeps us hooked on consumption and debt, The Man who holds the key to our prison and gives us our illusory rush of elation when we buy and use His addictive product. The Man who seduces us back even when we have decided that life in His prison is insane, self-abusive, worse than death. The monkey is our addiction, without which we cannot live. And we wander the streets of civilization's artificial world in a daze, never really home, wondering what is missing, why we feel so lost. Civilization is our ghetto, a whole world of six billion homeless people, setting fires on every corner for warmth, ganging up and stealing everything we can get our hands on to pawn for our fixes, breeding babies already drug-addicted at birth.

So the next time you see a homeless person, or an addict, don't be frightened, angry, or filled with pathos. You are looking in the mirror. It is we who are homeless, and addicted. What will it take before we break the habit, walk away from The Man, and find our way home?

How can we break the habit when all of us are addicts, even The Man? When we have all forgotten what it's like to live without the monkey? When we have all become the hollow, empty, desperate shadows of men that the monkey leaves behind?

When I become too theoretical, when I ask with too much vehemence why people work jobs they hate, why so many earn their living by deforesting, or mining, or working other destructive jobs, my friend reminds me: "Sixty days", he says. "That’s how long it takes before people in the civilized world begin to die of starvation. Dave can’t quit his job because in sixty days his children will die. That's the primary reason most of us do not rebel. We have too much to lose". Ours is a politics, economics and religion of occupation, not of inhabitation, and as such the methods by which we are formed and governed have no legitimacy save that sprouting from the end of a cannon, from a can of pepper spray, from the rapist's penis, from the travesty of modern education, from the instilled dread of a distant hell and the false promise of a future techtopia, from the chains that bind children to beds and looms and from the everyday fear of starvation -- as well as an internalized notion of what constitutes social success or failure -- that binds us to wage slavery. The responsibility for holding destructive institutions, systems and culture accountable falls on each of us. We are the governors of this prison as well as the governed...

- Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words

There's no methadone for the stuff we're hooked on. And no one left to administer it even if there were."

Dave Pollard, How to Save The World, "He Can't Hear You Anymore"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The human mind: knowing where not to look

"In the 1960s, Lestor Luborsky conducted an experiment in which he used a special camera to track the eye movements of people whom he'd asked to look at a set of pictures. This tracking allowed him to tell precisely where they looked. What he discovered was that if a photograph contained images that the people found morally objectionable, or that threatened their worldview, their eyes oftentimes wouldn't stray even once to those images. For example, one of the photos showed, in the background, an image of someone reading a newspaper, while the foreground contained the outline of a woman's breast. Many of those who found nudity morally objectionable did not look even once at the breast, and when asked about it later, could not remember that there had been a breast in the photograph. It seems reasonable to suppose that some part of their minds must have known--they must have seen out of the corners of their eyes--that something there would disturb them, and so, like Shem and Japheth, they chose not to look. I cannot say whether the decision not to look was made consciously or unconsciously by Shem and Japheth, but it seems pretty clear from the reactions of those who did not--could not--look at all the parts of the photograph that their decision to not see were made on an entirely pre- or unconscious level. The point is that in nearly all circumstances we each know precisely where not to look in order to have our worldview remained unthreatened and intact."

-Derrick Jensen, The Culture of Make Believe