A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.
There have been some long discussion amongst British wizards regarding the significance of Glastonbury Tor, as a result of the horrendous flooding, turning itself back into an island.
The Isle of Avalon, from whence a once-and-future-king is to emerge, to save a Realm in peril.
Via Sef on facestalk (where we are now besties):
THE parallels with the First World War are totally doing a historian’s head in, it has been confirmed. Julian Cook, professor of early 20th Century history at Roehampton University, has admitted he dreads reading the newspapers because ‘it is just one massive headfuck after another’.
He said: “It’s got to the stage where my wife won’t let me speak. All I’m allowed to do is point at the front page of the Guardian while looking at her with an expression of sheer horror.
“We have a strongly nationalistic, strategically significant eastern European country deciding its fate, while three empires stand waiting in the wings, rattling their sabres. It is freaking me the fuck out.”
He added: “I talk to my historian pals and they’re like, ‘no way, that’s totally what I was thinking’. And then we all shout ‘powder keg’ in unison and have a bit of a giggle.
Which brings us to the fuzzy ‘between spaces’ where apophenia meets synchromysticism. Given that old gods regularly become new angels, then new goddesses may become largely-hoax angels. And so I see the goddess Apophenia hiding behind the Angel of the Thames.
From The Apophenion:
Neopantheists rely on their personal experiential definitions of reality rather than subscribe to societally sanctioned opinion about what constitutes reality and what doesn’t. Thus if a superposition gets good results it gets reused, and coincidence rarely gets dismissed as mere coincidence. We spend most of our lives trying to engineer coincidence between intent and actuality. So if a synchronicity appears spontaneously we should consider interpreting it as an affirmation of deep intent, or a warning from the subconscious. Such ‘magical thinking’ often attracts the derision of scientifically schooled minds, but magical thinking often produces excellent results when you have exhausted the possibilities of common sense.
Ents. From Atlantis.
A prehistoric forest, an eerie landscape including the trunks of hundreds of oaks that died more than 4,500 years ago, has been revealed by the ferocious storms which stripped thousands of tons of sand from beaches in Cardigan Bay.
The skeletal trees are said to have given rise to the local legend of a lost kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod, drowned beneath the waves. The trees stopped growing between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago, as the water level rose and a thick blanket of peat formed. [More.]
If you think this is 'mere' fiction then fuck you, you're already lost. It is Mythic, and Myth is probably the only eternal thing. Let's hear from Ursula LeGuin in The Paris Review:
INTERVIEWER: In Steering the Craft, you say—and you seem to be speaking as both a reader and a writer—“I want to recognize something I never saw before.”
LE GUIN: It has something to do with the very nature of fiction. That age-old question, Why don’t I just write about what’s real? A lot of twentieth-century— and twenty-first-century—American readers think that that’s all they want. They want nonfiction. They’ll say, I don’t read fiction because it isn’t real. This is incredibly naive. Fiction is something only human beings do, and only in certain circumstances. We don’t know exactly for what purposes. But one of the things it does is lead you to recognize what you did not know before.
This is what a lot of mystical disciplines are after—simply seeing, really seeing, really being aware. Which means you’re recognizing the things around you more deeply, but they also seem new. So the seeing-as-new and recognition are really the same thing.
INTERVIEWER: Could you elaborate on this idea just a little?
LE GUIN: Not adequately! I can only muddle at it. A very good book tells me news, tells me things I didn’t know, or didn’t know I knew, yet I recognize them— yes, I see, yes, this is how the world is. Fiction—and poetry and drama— cleanse the doors of perception.
All the arts do this. Music, painting, dance say for us what can’t be said in words. But the mystery of literature is that it does say it in words, often straightforward ones.
Today science and the “philosophy of mind”—its thoughtful assistant, which is sometimes smarter than the boss—are threatening Western culture with the exact opposite of humanism.
Call it roboticism. Man is the measure of all things, Protagoras said. Today we add, and computers are the measure of all men.
Many scientists are proud of having booted man off his throne at the center of the universe and reduced him to just one more creature—an especially annoying one—in the great intergalactic zoo.
That is their right. But when scientists use this locker-room braggadocio to belittle the human viewpoint, to belittle human life and values and virtues and civilization and moral, spiritual, and religious discoveries, which is all we human beings possess or ever will, they have outrun their own empiricism. They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully.
Nowhere is its bullying more outrageous than in its assault on the phenomenon known as subjectivity.
Your subjective, conscious experience is just as real as the tree outside your window or the photons striking your retina—even though you alone feel it. Many philosophers and scientists today tend to dismiss the subjective and focus wholly on an objective, third-person reality—a reality that would be just the same if men had no minds. They treat subjective reality as a footnote, or they ignore it, or they announce that, actually, it doesn’t even exist.
The modern “mind fields” encompass artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind. Researchers in these fields are profoundly split, and the chaos was on display in the ugliness occasioned by the publication of Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos in 2012.
Nagel is an eminent philosopher and professor at NYU. In Mind & Cosmos, he shows with terse, meticulous thoroughness why mainstream thought on the workings of the mind is intellectually bankrupt. He explains why Darwinian evolution is insufficient to explain the emergence of consciousness—the capacity to feel or experience the world. He then offers his own ideas on consciousness, which are speculative, incomplete, tentative, and provocative—in the tradition of science and philosophy.
Nagel was immediately set on and (symbolically) beaten to death by all the leading punks, bullies, and hangers-on of the philosophical underworld. Attacking Darwin is the sin against the Holy Ghost that pious scientists are taught never to forgive. Even worse, Nagel is an atheist unwilling to express sufficient hatred of religion to satisfy other atheists. There is nothing religious about Nagel’s speculations; he believes that science has not come far enough to explain consciousness and that it must press on. He believes that Darwin is not sufficient.
The intelligentsia was so furious that it formed a lynch mob. In May 2013, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a piece called “Where Thomas Nagel Went Wrong.” One paragraph was notable:
Whatever the validity of [Nagel’s] stance, its timing was certainly bad. The war between New Atheists and believers has become savage, with Richard Dawkins writing sentences like, “I have described atonement, the central doctrine of Christianity, as vicious, sadomasochistic, and repellent. We should also dismiss it as barking mad….” In that climate, saying anything nice at all about religion is a tactical error.
It’s the cowardice of the Chronicle’s statement that is alarming—as if the only conceivable response to a mass attack by killer hyenas were to run away. Nagel was assailed; almost everyone else ran. [More.]
Years ago, whilst doing some audio postproduction at the same shop that did Moulin Rouge, I had lunch with Baz Lurhmann. The topic of discussion was 'where is today's Montmartre', because it certainly isn't in Paris. The criteria were:
- It had to be a place where you could buy or get anything.
- It had to be a place where the rich and powerful come and play with the young and beautiful creatures of the night.
- It had to be a nexus of creativity and affordability that drew in artists from across the planet with an unstoppable gravitational force.
- It had to be a place where social norms were flouted in extremis.
At the time (2000-ish) he said it was probably Bangkok. But the world has moved on from that, also. Now Bangkok is a tropical Essex. Where would Toulouse Lautrec be found in 2014?
In the last hundred years or so, there has always been THE city, THE place that drew in artists, musicians and writers into a cheap, dark, chaotic constellation of each other's drug-addled lights. It's been Paris, London, New York, Chicago, Berlin... possibly Bangkok. (I'm still unconvinced.)
Most people want to say somewhere in India but you try flouting gender norms or buying a bazooka in Bangalore. For my money, it's probably Lagos.
Nollywood, Afrobeats, the unstoppable rise of Africa's postcolonial novelists, extreme income inequality in a strategically-located, hyper-growth economy, persistently lax attitudes to law and order.
Today's Lautrec would move to Lagos. He may have painted anywhere but he would not have had the audience/victims, materials or inspiration for his outrageous culinary experiments. (It is a fundamental misunderstanding of French bourgeois culture not to see quite how transgressive his bizarre menus actually were. You could genuinely liken it to spitting on the American flag.)
In the west, you can argue that much of these Moulin Rouge functions have been devolved into the 'second cities' of various countries. Glasgow, Bristol, Austin, Detroit, Melbourne, Lyon, Barcelona, etc.
And this is probably a fair observation, but I can't help but feel that this decentralisation denies The Resistance its 'in-person network effects.' Would the Beat Movement have caught fire without New York? Would Jazz without Chicago, Punk without London?
Replacing this dark, cheap chaos is the new elite and middle class's peculiar satisfaction with simulacra. King Edward VII took champagne baths with the courtesans of Montmartre. You just go ahead and picture Mark Zuckerberg doing that in the wilds of South Lagos. (But I'm pretty sure he'd want Nigerian waitstaff at that new African restaurant in The Valley he found on Yelp.)
The new elite don't want country piles in Gloucestershire or Upstate New York. The new elite want to live in central areas, lured by the excitement their very presence displaces. Such are the inevitable consequences of economics -call it the post-apocalyptic Highland Clearances- but want terrifies me is how completely fine they seem to be with living in the shell of something that brought them there in the first place.
London just needs to look like London, New York just needs to look like New York. Why go and see paintings in a gallery when you can watch them via a robot wandering around the Tate at night? Here's an example from right around the corner from my old workplace (and Austin Osman Spare's childhood neighbourhood.)
The second tragedy is that, if there is to be redevelopment, the choices of preservation and demolition in the Henderson scheme are the wrong way round. The special part is not the brick exterior but the hall and the roof, war damage notwithstanding. Its value is not just aesthetic, but in the fact that it can be a shared public space.
Personally I would like it if a fancy specialist market were not the only alternative to demolition for places like this, but given that it probably is, such a future would enrich a sterile part of London. But the conservation discussion is framed in such a way that it is bad at recognising such qualities. It emphasises "townscape", which means that the picturesque qualities of the facades and roof matter more than the urban experience of being in the hall. It treats the basically functional buildings of the old market as if they were works of artistic composition. [More.]
The gods forbid that London actually be London! It just needs to look like it from the outside. Inside, space must be made for bean bags and pinball machines so recently-graduated college boys can take a well-earned break from building a 'Snapchat for Business Travel' or whatever.
In the nineties, I was fascinated by simulacra. Anyone involved in that dial-up digital utopianism was. Simulacra were malleable. They were radical non-places standing in opposition to the monotony of the authentic/dominant. But now simulacra rule our world and the radical quest is to seek for the authentic. (There is Deep Wisdom about The Adversary in all this.)
The rise of the Simulacra manifests most darkly in ruin porn... the fetishisation of decay. Below is a sequence from the astonishingly good second series of House Of Cards. (Itself a simulacrum of a UK show of the same name.)
Freddy owns a rib shack that becomes hugely popular when the word gets out it is frequented by Vice President Underwood. A restaurant marketing group approaches him to discuss selling his barbecue sauce and opening a chain of restaurants. Here, their employee, Tommy Devine, shows Freddy through the plans for the first franchise location.
Why is that linoleum peeling off?
To make it seem real.
Well, I wanted it to look nicer than this.
Scratch the peeling linoleum. But we don't want it to look too nice.
You want them white folks to feel like they slummin'.
To have an authentic atmostphere.
And I get to play the n****r.
Look, Freddy... you know how this works. They don't just want the ribs, they want the experience... but without having to leave the suburbs for it.
'Fiction', again, you say? Well here's a delightful rant from a journalist I briefly lived with when I first moved to London. It's called Fuck Your Pop-Up Shops.
“A pop-up mall made from 50 recycled shipping containers is to set up shop in London's Elephant and Castle area after the development was granted planning permission this month.”
Sometimes, the deadpan house style of a news article packs more emotional punch than the most florid purple prose. I read the above in a Retail Bulletin news story in January, and something deep in my soul tweaked. It is a sentence of Platonic perfection; a saga in 29 words that inadvertently tells us everything we need to know about the times we are living in.
The pop-up mall, called Artworks Elephant, will open on the site of the massive, empty Heygate Estate in south London as it undergoes a £1.5 billion, 15-year regeneration project – making the transition from the Heygate Estate to "Elephant Park". Let's get this clear from the outset, as one of the Artworks' many functions is to provide a shiny bauble to distract from what the long-term project is actually doing: the regeneration will replace the Heygate's 1,200 demolished council homes with only 71 new ones (out of nearly 3,000 homes altogether). With private rental being unaffordable for so many, it's pretty head-smackingly obvious that regeneration, in this instance, means social cleansing. London is being purged – every council is privately discussing contingencies of where to send its poorer tenants and their families; will it be Hastings, Derby or Merthyr Tydfil?
But surely, you might object, any use of this site in the interim is better than it being left desolate? As this excellent piece of local journalism on the Southwark Notes blog points out, until it was fenced off by the developers in February 2011, the Artworks site had been a “well-used open space that contained a large expanse of grass, large mature trees and a small kids' playground. On Sundays, it hosted football between different local Latin American teams.” It was exactly the local community space the shipping container shopping mall purports to be. Southwark Council and developers Lend Lease have rejected most of the local residents' detailed proposals for temporary use of other parts of the Heygate: for allotments, a community pond, sport and recreation, gardening and a free outdoor cinema. The Artworks, meanwhile, skipped through the normally lengthy planning application process and into the fenced-off site.
As well as the practical damage Artworks seems to be doing, its horribly zeitgeisty marketing language and aesthetics leave a sour taste in the mouth. Over the last few years I have wondered just why I detest the increasingly ubiquitous "pop-ups" so much. Then I found the Evening Standard's Consumer Affairs Editor Sri Carmichael explaining it for me in a Newsnight report from 2009: “The association people have with pop-up shops is it's a bit edgy, it's a bit street, it's a new, funky business that's trying to start up – so it's created this quirkiness, this sense of novelty among consumers which is obviously very exciting, and that creates a sense of urgency to buy if you think it's not going to be there for very long. And anything that generates excitement amongst consumers in this climate, in the recession, makes them put their hands in their pockets, is exactly what retailers want."
We who live in the real world are being turned into matchstick girls, standing in the snow, selling to the Fancy Men as they hurry past to their gleaming, ruin-coated offices.
Such a state of affairs leaves us with only the most unlikely and pointless ‘heroes’, like Chelsea-based celebrity stylists. (Which isn’t to say I don’t fully support him):
Schumi felt compelled to take a stand after losing a final appeal against the council granting his landlord's bid to convert his salon, which has been a shop since 1810, into luxury housing. The salon will close for the final time in April, but the stylist hopes to prevent further "sanitisation" of the historic area.
Much of the redevelopment is aimed at wealthy individuals, often from abroad, who push up London housing prices by buying properties as investments without living in them.
Last week, Bank of England governor Mark Carney admitted that cash-rich foreign buyers have driven house prices beyond the control of the central bank. "The top end of London is driven by cash buyers. It's driven in many cases by foreign buyers. We as the central bank can't influence that," he said.[...]
[Schumi] pointed to the closure of King's Road restaurant Choys last November, which had been serving Chinese food since 1952. Owner Chan Wing Man sold his lease back to the landlord, Cadogan Estates, citing rising rates as a factor in his decision to shut. He said at the time: "It's not easy running a restaurant these days, with rates and rent and everything. It's hard work."
Schumi added: "I want to preserve amenities and public services, but of course also social housing. All the council wants is to sell the land."
Henderson agreed: "They're more worried about people from outside the area than those that live there at the moment. They're looking after the interests of foreign buyers and foreign developers."
A report by rightwing think tank Civitas published earlier this month revealed that 85% of prime London property purchases in 2012 were made by overseas buyers. Civitas pointed out that the problem is not confined to the top end of the market; many foreign buyers are acquiring less expensive newbuild homes too. Two-thirds of the homes bought by people from overseas were not purchased for owner-occupation but as investments. [More.]
Let's head back down the Thames from Chelsea and see what the angel has in store. This:
Joanna Lumley’s dream of a “floating paradise garden” suspended above the river Thames is set to become a reality after the Government pledged £30 million to support its construction.
Offering a final seal of approval to the bridge - designed by London 2012 Olympic cauldron creator Thomas Heatherwick - the funding announcement was included in the Government’s latest infrastructure plan.
Around half of the £150 million needed to bring the project to life had already been raised through private donations and a £4 million injection from Transport for London. Last month, Ms Lumley launched a trust to organise the funding and construction of the bridge.
Don't get me wrong. London certainly needs another pedestrian bridge across the river and this one will be fantastic. I like it. Anything is better than the East London hipsters' shit attempt at
simulating replicating The High Line. But, just as with the original article, we can't leave this PR announcement without the final sting in the tail.
The Government will however be selling off £20 billion of state owned financial and corporate assets by 2020, including its 40 per cent stake in Eurostar.
And so we find ourselves being forced to celebrate pop-ups and luvvy bridges. The simulacra are so complete that London seriously held a 'hackathon' to attempt to build apps to help the victims of the flood that brought the Ents back. I just... don't... know where to begin with that.
Who is this pedestrian bridge being built for, then?
As ever, Sam Kriss probably has the answer.
Every new building project in London now comes with its own cutesy nickname. The Gherkin, the Shard of Glass, the Cheesegrater, the Helter-Skelter. The point isn’t just to endear the new ziggurats of finance capital to the city’s population: all these fanciful geometries exist to hammer in the point that London isn’t really a city any more. It’s a playground.
London has more multi-millionaires than any other city on the planet, with well over four thousand individuals worth over $30m. London property is increasingly being used as a global reserve currency; more value is accrued by the average residence than by the average resident.
London is an enormous concierge service for the super-rich. There are those that serve the oligarchs directly: the construction workers that raise their speculative investments, the service workers that bring them their meals, the sex workers that soothe their anxieties at the end of the day. There are those workers that help reproduce the labour of these first-order servants from behind the tills at fast food outlets and behind the desks of tube stations. There are cops that keep the streets clear and technicians that keep the water flowing.
As it spreads out from the centre of the city its operation becomes ever more abstracted, but the rule is the same: everywhere the fruits of your labour must flow upwards. Like any faithful dog, money follows its master.
For whatever it's worth, I think London is big, old and ugly enough to survive its archonic surgery. It's survived extreme inequality before, for most of its history, in fact. (However, previously the ruling elites would tolerate our presence because we were an essential part of their accumulation of wealth: factories, shipping, etc. This is not the case today. They don't even need us to buy stuff because we can't afford it any more.)
But there is no getting around the fact that we are entering what we might call our Palestinian phase... we are stateless in our own state. Marginal. And so we come back to where it is that we should find Montmartre in this post-apocalypse, given that all the previous contenders have been ruin-porned into oblivion.
We find it where we find everything else. In our head.
The memory palace on the hill
From Gary Lachman's The Quest for Hermes Trismegistus:
While in the knowledge that falls under episteme we may be subject to doubt and uncertainty, in gnosis we are not. There, as G.R.S. Mead, a great modern Hermetic scholar, remarked, ‘is certitude, full and inexhaustible, no matter how the doubting mind … may weave its magic …’ The doubting mind, Mead tells us, knows ‘discursive knowledge’, the ‘noise of words’, and ‘the appearance of things’. This, Mead continues, ‘the followers of Hermes left to the “Greeks.” For the Hermeticist ‘only “wisdom” would do’. And that wisdom was Egyptian.[...]
The content of the gnosis, what the Hermeticists were gaining knowledge of, were the true relations between man, the cosmos, and the divine. Again, this is the essence of most mystical or esoteric teachings. We live in ignorance, unaware of the true nature of reality and of our place in it. For many people, perhaps most, this isn’t a problem. They accept day-to-day life and do not ask why we are here and what we are supposed to do now that we are. The seekers of gnosis, however, are unsatisfied with this.
To feel that living on the Montmartre of your mind is somehow less than the physical thing (the situation is the exact opposite) is to diminish your own superweapon. We may have to do without in-person network effects for a while, but we are hardly unarmed. The existing narrative is false, awful and easily defeated.
Consider the last time TV did 'Washington DC as Shakespeare'... the execrable blow job under the boss's table that was The West Wing. Now think again about House of Cards. There is not the faintest whiff of Camelot there. Do you think Obama's acting has gotten worse over the last five years or is it just easier to see through now? They are losing the Mind War. If Arthur returns as a result of these floods he will not be going to DC or Westminster.
The following book and article would have been Snowden big if we hadn't had Snowden. From former congressional staff member Mike Lofgren:
Throughout history, state systems with outsized pretensions to power have reacted to their environments in two ways. The first strategy, reflecting the ossification of its ruling elites, consists of repeating that nothing is wrong, that the status quo reflects the nation’s unique good fortune in being favored by God and that those calling for change are merely subversive troublemakers. As the French ancien régime, the Romanov dynasty and the Habsburg emperors discovered, the strategy works splendidly for a while, particularly if one has a talent for dismissing unpleasant facts. The final results, however, are likely to be thoroughly disappointing.
What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.
The 'surprising speed of the unravelling' is what they are afraid of. We see them for what they are and they see that we see them for what they are. You have my professional assurances that every single government body conducts regular sentiment analysis and constant social monitoring. And not just so they can disrupt discourse that disagrees with them -although this is certainly the case- it is also because they are scared of what you think.
I want to shake you all like mewling babies until you feel what I feel: just by holding and sharing these thoughts, you deepen the cracks in the control mechanism. If you actually create something from those thoughts? Boooooom.
Ruled over by the goddess Apophenia, that part of you that sees Ents in the flood damage -LeGuin's mysterious inner storyteller- is the only guide you need to seek the authentic. (Why do you suppose it is under such sustained attack?) There are worlds in you. Worlds without tube strikes and house prices. Worlds of Atlantean Ents and promiscuous French dwarves.
Whilst Lofgren's final remark is potentially a recipe for dictatorship, we already have that. It's not a risk sufficient enough to warrant avoiding.
But it also could be a recipe for you. We may have to cede Paris and London and New York; hopefully temporarily; but Montmartre -consider its literal name!- is always emerging from the unconscious like the Mound of Creation.
So make the pop-up shoppers scared and go out and buy a novel. Then maybe sit down and write one.