baselines

When I am manic I am a leftist; when I feel normal I am a pessimist. 

The key question of post-nihilist praxis is why should anybody care about anything. We’re split from ourselves. We know the world is a cold dead corpse and that any warmth is a synaptic flare produced by the moronic mechanisms of our hominid being. And still we want to reduce suffering or to engage in projects of liberation. Why? In True Detective the antinatalist pessimist protagonist pursues a dark heroism centred on justice and motivated by compassion: why? In stating that “no lives matter” one is not attempting to offend black activists or black people or white people who get offended on behalf of black people in some ritual of affective substitutionalism; stating that “no lives matter” is first of all stating it to oneself. The question “why should I care?” is also the question “why do I care?”. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you care about. It doesn’t matter if you’re Moldbug or Srnicek and William: if you can’t the this question it will keep coming back, haunting you, burning your throat as it  repeats like gastric acid. Why and how do you care? If you can’t answer that then you can have the most compelling emancipatory vision in the world, and still find yourself out there on the fringes.

7 responses to “baselines

  1. i don’t think we can help caring (or not) about this or that and i don’t think knowing (say the evolution, physiology or genealogy) why gives us much to work with in terms of what to do or not in our lives which for me is more the central issue of praxis/living.
    so i’m more interested in what is possible or not given that we are in some sense made up of (act out of our) cares/interests and want to explore more how we cultivate/sublimate them into something more humane, less maddening.
    the existential question than isn’t so much to be or not to be but how to live or die.
    i wrote this comment in that last long thread:
    while the dire circumstances of some folks makes survival the same as active resistance this isn’t most of us who are think aren’t so much struggling with existence (or not existing) but how and in what ways to be in active resistance. I do doubt much can be done to scale up resistances (not to mention sustainable alternatives) that amount to more than the kinds of all too familiar civil protests, worker-unions, and the admirable but tragic armed guerrilla movements of the poor but would welcome working alternatives if folks have examples to share.

  2. Yes, sure, I agree. As someone who is alive I know I care about stuff. As someone read evolutionary theory I have an idea about why. As someone who has read affective neuroscience I have even more specific reasons how. As someone who knows a buit about capitalism and about behavioural science and cognitive conditioning etc etc I know even more reasons how and why. As the thing that thinks of itself as me by virtue of the inability to grasp these multiple and multi-scaled abstract determinants- think of it as “the invisible and blind brained hand” or something- I know specifically about what I care about. And what I care about is often pretty close to what you care, dmf, care about. And we seem to care about the things even more people care about. Abstracted from our immediacies.

    But look at what you’re saying. Resistance. Civil protest. Workers unions. Guerilla movements. Movements of the poor or of the workers. You don’t say it but we could at ecological movements or democratic movements or movements to prevent the closure and property development on the meadow down the road from my house where Freddy plays with his friends and I sit and read in the summer or we go to have a fire sometimes in the evenings etc. Who cares?

    Of course I care. And you care. And Michael cares. And Linda cares. And Jeremy cares. And Felix cares. And socialists and communists and anarchists and indigenous activists and antipsychiatrists and so on and so on care.

    And I can ask myself why I care. I can introduce doubt. I can perform a behavioural analysis. I say I care but do I mean that “I feel bad about”, or that “I recognize that it is socially appropriate to feel bad about”, or “everyone in my circle feels bad about”. Maybe it doesn’t really matter?

    But not everyone cares in the way we think they ought to care. And we are explicit believers over here in the death of transcendental prescriptive normativity. By what criteria do we dare say “you are wrong”? We just do. We just feel it. Then we give reasons.

    But not everyone cares. They don’t care at all. Plenty don’t. They genuinely don’t care about the closure of the meadow down the road from me or about the closure and robotization of another Chinese factory or about the rising flood water in the global south.

    We talk about coping: well not everyone cope by giving a shit. Or some people cope by being fascists. And it serves them brilliantly.

    So yes, we’re in our little world. We care about liberty and not living in a murderous social machine. But how do you begin to appeal to those who don’t? Because we know that rational argument couldn’t convince cattle not to go into the abattoir. One of my thoughts is that “the left”- or whatever- should just accept it needs to manipulate, to capture the choice structures, to implement behavioural economic micro-coercions, to “put lithium in the water” (as it were).

    We begin from various and variable baselines.

    • ah i wasn’t getting that you might be asking why do we care (or not ) as we do as opposed to suggesting that we take seriously not-caring in general (apart from those with grave disabilities i don’t think we can be/do such a thing).
      as for appealing to those who don’t i’ve pretty much given up on that as i don’t think we have the means but if someone has a workable mechanism i’d be excited to hear about it, so my own focus is more on how to cope with the fact that too many people don’t care about (are in some way actively exacerbating) the things that so distress me given my inabilities to move them (either to productive action or just out of the way).
      oh sure (as you know) we are various and variable even within ourselves.

      • And so we circle back to pessimism and the eternal muttering in the corner of the room: we’re doomed. It’s comic, like the old Scotsman in Dad’s Army: we’re doomed, dooooooooooomed I said.

        I’m asking these questions while I read Inventing the Future. It’s a great book. Genuinely it is. But it’s problems are those of every great bit of leftist writing: it all comes back to various and variable hominids hidden behind abstractions like labour or (relative) surplus populations or what have you.

        There is something hilarious in all of these conversations that go “how do I/we make group x do y”. We’re so important. All the knowledge devolved directly onto us. It’s kind o’like being a hipster.

        • sadly is likely exactly one way of being a kind of hipster, never really an interest of mine, i’ve always been more invested in the DIYers out making shit and otherwise being un-timely.
          for what it’s worth i don’t equate being realistic with being pessimistic, this isn’t about an attitude as much as the daily news.

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