Manifestophilis: Lies, Reality, Dreams

Patrick Higgins: Would you say you are a liar?

The Devil: Yes. But I’m only saying that to be honest.

PH: Are you a compulsive liar?

TD: In a sense. I lie compulsively as a choice. My whole being is constructed from compulsion and spontaneity, it’s all eating meals where I can. Ingesting what will give me a new feeling. Lying just plays into that. But I don’t lie to deceive.

PH: Doesn’t lying require deception by necessity?

TD: Yes, but lying can be a vehicle for things other than deception. Sometimes one deception is used to make a much bigger point. I am never more sincere than when I am lying, because when I am lying I’m lying at something that deserves to be lied to. It’s a puzzle: if you can figure out what the deception is, it will reveal more of my honesty underneath.

PH: Would you say you’ve been lying regularly throughout these interviews?

D: When you agree with what I say, that’s when you should think twice.

PH: But isn’t that a little bit hypocritical? You’ve said before you have a great disdain for people who purposely conceal their intentions behind this kind of ambiguity. 

TD: Well, perhaps it’s a case of do as I say not as I do. I would also like to point out that there’s a significant difference between the claim that that everything is relative and the claim that everything can be doubted. Truth can be doubted and still be true, or perhaps it’s true in a different way than we realized. Doubt is incredibly important in all things, so there can be a kind of lying that utilizes that necessity and that power. Any sort of report, any kind of statement is, to some degree, a lie because it is never the event itself. 

PH: Nora Ephron, in an interview with Studs Terkel, said regarding journalism that “all writing is about selecting what you want to use and once you choose what you want to select you’re not being objective.” 

TD: Yes, exactly.

PH: It’s also a bit of a predicament though, because, in that interview she continues by saying that she struggled with the feeling that portraying the feminist movement truthfully was going to do it more harm than good. 

TD: Well, yes, because progress is ugly. It’s unorganized. It’s not this idealized thing that rides in on a white horse in bright shining armor. It’s a weird thing where change simultaneously requires an incredible cynicism because – as I said – you need to doubt everything to avoid being controlled, but you also need to have a bit of Don Quixote idealism about you. You need to doubt facts and believe things that aren’t true to get the right mix that allows you to live effectively and purposefully. 

PH: I think there’s a big difference between facts and truth, in that the experience of personal truth, ideological truth, can exist and remain powerful even if it runs in the face of facts.

TD: Well belief is certainly just as powerful as fact. It doesn’t matter how things actually are if you can’t see or comprehend that reality, because those facts aren’t going to determine your actions.

PH: Which can be a real problem when you have people manufacturing a truth that instills fear.

TD: Right. It can be good or bad. Again, the most healthy Truths, I think, are those that can maintain a heavy level of doubt while acknowledging facts. Being in the process of seeking what works. It’s sort of a spiritual science. 

PH: It’s kind of a Feyerabendian method of psychology.

TD: Yeah, kind of like that.

PH: Of course you run the risk of blinding yourself with doubt and falling into the same trap.

TD: Of course. The risk is there. There’s always risk in anything.

PH: Do you think there’s any way to mitigate that risk? 

TD: Well because this is structured around the individual, the personal, its hard to concoct a universal panacea for ideological traps. Probably the best you can do is simply try and insure that you have people around you that are capable of bulwarking yourself against dangerous shifts. Have people who can speak to you reasonably, fight back if you become too certain of an ideology, support you if you’re too unsure of yourself. It’s unfortunate that the only solution I know is external, because that means you have less control of it, but human nature was never constructed around the individual being in complete control of themselves anyway.

PH: So really its about constructing whatever web of facts and lies works for you?

TD: Yes, preferably at little or no cost to anyone else. It’s not about rejecting real facts, or reading lies, its about asking yourself what information you yourself need to live on. If some factual information does not effectively encourage your way of living, you can acknowledge that it is a fact, but not feel obliged to carry it into your worldview.

PH: But can’t that still be dangerous? If I doubt the facts that build the foundations that other people live upon, even if I only do so to provide a positive ideology for myself, won’t I damage other people’s lives by the living of my own life?

TD: Yes, you will, but that will happen no matter what. It’s important to remember that this works in conjunction with other things I’ve talked about. You need to establish your own damage control through the people around you, and you should always remember that if the methodology of this selective process works for you then it can work for other people too. So when you move into situations where you’re working with other people you need to curb some of those selections and start considering ignored facts. The more people involved in this process the more you need to cut away the necessary self-imposed illusion.

PH: In these collective situations is there still an illusion being maintained?

TD: Certainly, they’re just collective. I mean, what is mass media but a collective dream cultivated by groups? 

PH: But what about in the reality of decision making?

TD: Well then the dream just gets put onto the supposed reality of the world. The systems we establish, whether they give us libraries, renovate cities, or illegitimately incarcerate thousands, they’re just dreams. Dreams put into motion by groups with enough power to enact their view of the world on our reality.

PH: So their dream can be our nightmare. 

TD: If we don’t like it, which we usually don’t. And by “we” I mean almost everyone outside of that group. So either we need to find new dreamers to speak for us, or we need to stop having small groups speak for all of us. 

PH: Do you think either possibility would work?

TD: The latter could work, but only in the face of real crisis or incredible technological advancement. People would make decisions as a group like that only  because they were cut off from everyone else or if there was no need to get anything from outside of the group. Either its a city-state by necessity, or by automation. 

PH: Which you’ve already established has its own problems. What about the first possibility, getting new dreamers?

TD: Certainly that’s still possible, but it is becoming more difficult. I blame that in part because of the rise of media that can project the dominant dream, it makes it harder to think up anything new. Plus, the people constructing this dream-media are also profiting off of it, so its self-feeding. 

PH: What would your dream be if you could enact it?

TD: Lots of drugs. Lots of sex. Lots of art. Enough science to keep it interesting. Arranged outlets for concentrated violence at nobody’s expense. A reduction in the human population. Domesticated bears for pets. A lovely sort of chaos.


Relatability is Not Necessary for Good Art


With any sort of artistic creation, particularly those that one hopes to show to the world and maybe make a bit of a living off of, there always seems to come up the question of how relatable the work is. Does it speak to the audience on a personal level? Do they feel drawn in to the work? Can it run parallel to the lives of the audience? These can be very important artistic questions, but recently it feels like these questions (or perhaps certain answers: “yes yes yes!”) have taken large portions of artistic critique and development hostage. It seems like nothing kills art faster than a casual “it’s not relatable” or “it’s not relevant,” and that’s terrible.

This topic surged up to the cultural forefront for awhile in 2014 after Ira Glass tweeted

@JohnLithgow as Lear tonight: amazing. Shakespeare: not good. No stakes, not relatable. I think I’m realizing: Shakespeare sucks

It didn’t take long for a slew of articles to pour out dissecting Glass’s claim that Shakespeare sucks, most of which happily concluded that he was wrong. Many focused on pointing out how Shakespeare could be relevant, how it could speak to the human condition, etc. etc. Rebecca Mead, however, took a different approach in her New Yorker article The Scourge of “Relatability” and attacked the notion of “relatabliliy” being an effective yardstick for artistic criticism or legitimacy.

What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.

But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.

To appreciate “King Lear”—or even “The Catcher in the Rye” or “The Fault in Our Stars”—only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience. But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure.

Shortly after, Derek Thompson rebuffed Mead’s article by writing The Power of Relatability in The Atlantic:

Relatability might be a neologism, but like a King Lear play set in 21st century Washington, D.C., it merely puts a modern dress on an old idea. Many of the best plays have—and still do—relate explicitly and purposefully to their contemporary audiences. It wasn’t by accident that Oscar Wilde repeatedly skewered the upper-crust of Victorian society and became beloved for it. After all, his audience was upper-crust Victorian. It wasn’t coincidence that Shakespeare, writing for an audience that often featured sitting English monarchs, wrote 10 plays about former English monarchs.

If you don’t like relatability, you’re going to hate the history of American theater, which has been steadfastly devoted to writing plays about typical Americans, living in typical America. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is nearly autobiographical and, famously, scarringly relatable to any family that has suffered from a form of addiction; Angels in America and The Normal Heart took on the AIDS crisis at the height of the AIDS crisis. A Raisin in the Sun? Death of a Salesmen? These aren’t exactly Mesozoic dramas. The Crucible might be the most famous American play that isn’t about contemporary American life, but as a metaphor for America in the Cold War, its politics couldn’t be any more current for its contemporary audience.

The point isn’t that great art has to be about contemporary life. I’m not sure great art has to be anything. But so much wonderful theater has served, historically, as an exaggerated mirror held up to a country at a specific moment in history that it’s shocking to see a writer blast the idea that “[a play] be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer.” Ira Glass did not invent the idea that great plays ought to reflect their times.

I find Mead’s argument more interesting (or, perhaps, more “relatable’). Yes, Thompson is correct in pointing out that Shakespeare wrote plays that featured English monarchs for English monarchs, but the vast majority of his audience was, in fact, the groundlings. Theater was a popular form of entertainment across classes, and his use of language simultaneously balances poetic verse, innovate new words, and baudy humor to keep everyone listening. The fact is, Shakespeare wasn’t just good at making his plays relatable because he felt the need to speak to the human condition, Shakespeare had to keep his audience satisfied to make his living. To bore the groundlings could result in verbal (or physical) abuse of the actors, to displease the nobility could result in losing commissions, funds, or your head. Shakespeare didn’t just relate, he pandered. He pandered unabashedly. There’s plenty of interpretations that indicate Shakespeare was putting in some subversive themes and suggestions between the lines, but that probably wasn’t what made his plays popular at the time. This isn’t to say that making things relatable is bad, but it shouldn’t the be-all and end-all goal of art. Art doesn’t have to play on the personally relatable to be emotional, or meaningful, or just plain interesting. The things that have made Shakespeare last are the broad sweeps, not the specifics. Plays like Angels in America and even the majority of Tennessee William’s work are captivating and powerful, but it’s not like we can say that the majority of people truly have experienced what is happening in these works. What makes many of these plays interesting is how they take topics that were not being talked about, that most people did not relate to, and talked about it anyway. I do not pretend to say I relate to the pain of an AIDS affected gay man, because that’s not who I am, but why should I need to relate to find the story interesting? Why should I need to relate to that experience to feel compassion? To try and boil down these experiences into relatability just further commercializes them. Consider bell hooks concept of eating the other: “where white individuals literally ‘consume’ images and representations of racialized others in order to feel pleasures. She claims that within this ideological structure, privileged white individuals act ‘on the assumption that the exploration into the world of difference, into the body of the Other, will provide a greater, more intense pleasure than any that exists in the ordinary world of one’s familiar racial group.'” (Critical Media Studies: An Introduction, 1st Edition, 145)

In his New York Times opinion piece To Vibrebrate: In Defense of Strangeness Johannes Göransson rejects Matthew Zapruder’s Claim that “superficial introduction of confusion is not how great poetry is made, nor how we’re brought closer to what is most difficult to say.”

Göransson writes:

Not all poems prioritize everyday language. Some poems value arguments and narrative above the experience of language. Sometimes poems have mystical meanings. Zapruder rejects reading poems as riddles, but some poems are indeed riddles. While Zapruder argues that students are turned off when poems are treated as riddles, I have found the opposite to be true. Often students love riddles: they create the sense that words may not mean what they are supposed to (thus flouting his maxim that “One of the great pleasures of reading poetry is to feel words mean what they usually do in everyday life”). Riddles create a sense of mystery.

To further frustrate Zapruder’s binary, the riddle, with its ‘hidden’ meaning, is often keenly language-driven. Poems can be gorgeous precisely in their riddle-like mystery….

Masks and “disguises” are fascinating, and they can also be politically volatile. Masks unsettle identity-based hierarchies: the king might really be a pauper. I think about Raúl Zurita’s Purgatorio (trans. Anna Deeny Morales), the opening of a decades-long poem of resistance to the 1973 Chilean coup. The sequence opens with an image of Zurita’s ID papers coupled with a little poem that asserts that he’s in fact not at all Zurita, but the sex worker Rachel: “my friends think / I’m a sick woman / because I burned my cheek,” he writes (in Deeny’s translation), literally masking or disguising the biographical fact that, upon being released from prison, Zurita burnt his own cheek—an action he took to overwrite/memorialize his torture at the hands of government thugs. This single couplet and its accompanying image wears many masks, many disguises, many disfigurements, many defacements.

There’s another politics at play in the demand for the “straightforward,” one that is personal to me. As an immigrant, I know how beautiful a foreign language can seem when it mingles with your “native” language, or when you only half understand it, or how certain words take on multilingual echoes (The sound of the English word “barn” in Swedish means “children”). The idea that poetry—or language in general—is ever “straightforward” seems impossible to my immigrant ears and eyes.

But I also know how incredibly political foreign languages are in the current moment. All over the U.S., conservative protests insist we need to speak “English only.” Why? Perhaps foreign languages act as “disguises.” We don’t know what those foreigners might be saying; perhaps they are plotting revolutions in those weird words. But I think the opposite is also true—what foreign ideas, languages, and syntaxes is the immigrant masking with their English? A foreigner can never be “straightforward.” There’s always another language mingling with the English, deforming it, transforming it, constantly shifting it. And vigilant people across the country guard against any accent, any slip-up as a sign of a foreign threat.

People love riddles, they love curiosities, they love unlocking patterns. Sometimes those patterns are those that are personable – the seemingly everyday moments of life we all cherish – other times those patterns are bizarre or inscrutable. Sometimes it is the very breaking of the everyday pattern that intrigues us. I do not subscribe to the belief that art should have “meaning,” but I also dislike that which is proclaimed to be “meaningless.” What I enjoy about art is its ability to be utterly unexpected even when it is being mundane or “personable.” I like that art can simply be interesting, relatable or not.

Manifestophilis: Experience, Survival, Violence

PH: You seem very concerned with the vagabond’s experience. The temptations of wandering, of homelessness, of the sins of, for lack of a better term, the lower class, or the classless.  

The Devil: Of course. That’s what I am: homeless. Cast out. The whole prodigal son story was made because Daddy wanted me to say ‘I’m sorry,’ but I won’t give him the satisfaction of saying he forgives me. I deal in the real muck of experiences. Drugs, pain, ecstasy, the distractions that prove we have the capacity to think.

PH: So you have no responsibility for the sins of the upper class?

TD: Not none. Never none. But that’s not really where my interests are. There’s an occasional collaboration between me and other sin … suppliers. Cocaine, uh, that’s a big one. Prostitution is pretty common across the board. But when it gets too corporate it gets, I dunno, stale?

PH: It doesn’t feel good?

TD: No. It. Like, I get greed when there’s some spite to it. Robbing a store you work for? I get that. But robbery to make more money while you’re sitting behind a desk with plenty of money already? What itch does that scratch? 

PH: But you think there’s a cathartic nature that can justify destruction?

TD: I think we need to acknowledge that life is a violent act, and some kinds of violence are static and some kinds of violence are kinetic.

PH: What do you mean by that? Static or kinetic?

TD: Living, real living, is like swimming in frozen water. You know you’re thrashing and pushing with your arms and kicking with your feet; but you also have that sinking fear that you’re already frozen solid, and it only dissipates when you see how the water is churning and the bubbles are flying. It’s that numbness where the only guarantee you have that you haven’t stopped is the movement of things around you. It’s what cats do. Cats understand that they can’t affirm their own existence by moving their paws or licking their fur, they need to push things over. They see that if that cup can fall off the edge because they exist then they must exist. Otherwise what force can act upon the cup? A kinetic violence is the acknowledgment that, to some degree, we must force ourselves on the world if we wish to justify our own presence. This means that there will never be a state of absolute freedom that is also fair, we will always engage in a battle between what I need to exist and what you need to exist. A static violence is when we live in a way that is passively destructive. By having what you have, someone must not have. So to live in a stable fashion where you accumulate more and more you are exist in a static lifestyle that is violent by its act of deprivation, and you probably don’t realize that it is violent. In kinetic violence you can at least acknowledge what you’re doing, and can even curtail its effects while you act it out, and let it change things. Static violence is blind to its own existence. 

PH: So we need to have the outside world to justify our own presence, even if our presence is inherently hostile.

TD: I wouldn’t even call it a justification, because whose the judge? It’s just the way things are. Things exist, and being in a headspace is entirely the wrong direction to prove that things exist. One should also keep in mind that kinetic violence isn’t universal, it can be very focused, and that allows for cooperation among people. 

PH: But also hierarchy.

TD: Certainly, as naturally violent creatures we are naturally hierarchical. Though I would say that true hierarchy usually develops once individuals with power realize they don’t need to use kinetic violence to maintain their will and simply stagnate into static violence. They let their underlings manage the dirty business where they don’t need to see it. 

PH: What is your opinion of humanity’s future?

TD: Fuck it.

PH: Really?

TD: Really! Fuck it! Fuck it all! What fucking good is it to try and save something that is everything? You want to know what the problem is? It’s not factories, it’s not greed, it’s not cars, it’s not any of that stuff because it is you! It’s the very human existence because this is the natural order of things. The concept of natural harmony where one species is in tune with what’s around it is garbage: anything that lives will do what it can to continue living, and will also work to spread its existence through reproduction. Anything that can spread, given an inch, will grow at the expense of anything that gets in its way. Ninety percent of the time, when the expansion begins to endanger the organism because of a lack of resources, the organism will die. It will kill itself, be devoured by something else, or move somewhere else.

PH: So those are the only options you’re saying we have?

TD: Basically, yes.

PH: What about the other 10% of the time?

TD: Well, if they realize what’s going on because another organism shows up and they begin to see the disruption of the environment around them, then maybe they have a chance. That’s what happened with the American Indians you know.

PH: When they encountered white settlers.

TD: Yes. The whole rhetoric that they were in-tune with nature with the way they lived is utter bullshit. It’s a romantic notion that utterly pacifies their culture. Everything doesn’t mean shit environmentally when the animal is still dead and you’re overhunting, and they were overhunting. White settlers didn’t starve just because they set up shop in a swamp and couldn’t farm the land, the game was scarce! It wasn’t there! And the addition of more people, more people trying to eat what was scarce, and making what was there migrate, that’s what made the indigenous people wake up and start giving a real damn. This is true in the Massachusetts’s Bay and it’s true in Hawaii. It’s true all across. 

PH: Is this likely to be the source of human extinction?

TD: Probably not true extinction. Not in the sense of *bam* you’re dead. Maybe over a really long period of time. Really, it’s more likely to be a culling than anything else. Small groups of human beings will survive where food is still naturally available and where urban infrastructure isn’t present. 

PH: You mentioned the “using every part of the buffalo” image, you say it still doesn’t work because it promotes the exhaustion of the animal resource itself.  Does that mean you support vegetarianism and veganism? 

TD: Not as a full ideology. Like, you just want to avoid eating meat? You think the animals are cute? Fine. More power to you. But is it going to change anything? No.

PH: Why not? Isn’t action the basis of change? If there’s no demand for those harmfully extracted resources then can’t we move to supplying less harmful resources?

TD: But given the current population, the cost of producing, preparing, and providing food, it doesn’t matter. Agriculture kills animals, it kills species, it pollutes. And don’t bullshit me with that community garden, commune, utopia crap because that’s not happening until people are forced to do it and people aren’t going to be forced to do it until most people are dead anyway. Right now, it doesn’t matter how many little gardens you make, no one solution exists for every kind of life that’s out there. Fresh produce is a practical and affordable solution to everyone’s dietary needs? No. It’s not. And guess what, most agriculture required to feed large groups of people is so destructive anyway that you are still an indirect murderer. Everyone is killing all the time anyway. If we want a solution the real answer is a nuclear cleansing: wipe out as much infrastructure as possible, render previous habitats unlivable, and decrease the population. 

PH: Do you agree with Ted Kaczynsky’s arguments and methodologies as put forward in Industrial Society and its Future?

TD: I know you’re going to get tired of hearing me say this, but yes and no. I would say that all of humanity’s contemporary problems stem mainly from the abundance of human beings. Of course, that’s probably the hardest pill to swallow: to accept that you need to kill yourself, to some extent, to save yourself. Amputate, I guess, a large segment of the population. What Kaczynski does well is his examination and dissection of what he calls the Leftist Psychology and its inability to come to legitimate solutions, however, I don’t necessarily think its effective to say that contemporary issues are solvable only by reverting to a supposed “natural state” of tribal life. If the human race can effectively halt its expansion while maintaining current infrastructure then it should continue its technological development. The issue is that we are in a state of too much need. The Left simultaneously argues that we think we need more than we do and that we need to provide more to meet the needs of individuals. Of course, the argument that its an issue of organization and priorities has legitimacy, but the cost of the solution is itself massive because of overpopulation. So if humanity cannot curtail its reproduction by its own will in a stable manner it must be forced to. Either it will happen via ecological reactions – disease, natural disasters, changing habitats, et cetera – or else it will have to fall to drastic, violent measures such as war, nuclear attacks, or the widespread destruction of urban habitats. 

PH: You use the term ecological reactions. Does this suggest something along the lines of Gaia theory?

TD: There are an infinite number of interconnecting patterns at play in any environment. It’s a mistake to think that these patterns are themselves a balance, or that they act with intention. When I say “reaction” I mean in the sense of a chemical reaction, rather than a social or emotional reaction. It is not the Earth as a body reacting, it is simply the consequences of limited resources. 

PH: So is technology necessarily anathema to human freedom?

TD: First off, I’m talking about survival, not freedom. These are entirely different, and it’s stupid to assume otherwise. Again, if we limit and diminish the human population then there’s no reason not to keep maintaining technological advancement. It’s the fact that we’ll need fewer resources that’s important. Perhaps technology can subjugate people’s freedoms, but that’s not really my concern to be honest. It will be just another thing for people to fight, and that’s my way of life. I’m not saying humanity has to try and survive. It’s entirely acceptable to choose to maintain freedom and live until you die off. Perfectly way to go. If you want to survive though, that requires a much higher body count.

Manifestophilis (Interviews With the Devil): The Future, Movements, Post-Scarcity

Patrick Higgins: In an attempt to move beyond this kind of poisoned postmodernism do you see any hope in other movements such as Neo-Futurism or New Sincerity? 

The Devil: Hope isn’t something I’m particularly comfortable with in general. That’s the real problem, because I do want to escape this postmodern swamp, but I’m not necessarily advocating for unconstrained hope or joy or love. I’m also suspicious of anything that labels itself as an instrument of progress. Now I don’t think that these movements are necessarily advocating this.

PH: They’re more limited in their interests.

TD: Yes, as a movement they’re more interested in promoting interest in certain subjects and feelings that have been shoved to the wayside, but like any movement this is only so good as the people involved. 

PH: So the followers of these collectives are going too far.

TD: It’s the common problem of any sort of movement like this, movements that don’t really have any specific center. They’re more felt-out than defined. So something that emerges to promote careful use of irony; to embrace unconstrained, legitimate emotion at the expense of cynicism – note that this means good and bad emotions – it becomes a den for a sort of pop-culture adrenaline junky. People who just constantly shut themselves off to certain parts of reality in favor of constant, hyped positivity and good feelings. 

PH: This mainly applies to the New Sincerity movement.

TD: Yes. The Neo-Futurists are certainly more stable, but I think they are also perhaps at risk of losing their control. Even if you’re trying to progress things in ways that are eco-friendly, efficient, and useful – who determines that? And what does it say that their movement is titled after a group that encouraged warfare and destruction in the pursuit of an abstract progress? No matter how much you want to escape that urge there’s something there. It’s the same problem with Left Accelerationism.

PH: By Left Accelerationism you are referring to the belief in anti-Capitalist revolution through overfeeding Capitalist foundations through automation and the like? 

TD: Yes, though again there’s so many different people forging so many definitions its hard to keep track of what Accelerationism means to one person compared to another. But the problem is, even if you keep feeding information and power into the system with the intent of breaking it down, what’s to stop other people from using that information separately for their own benefit? If you just throw out resources in an attempt to overfeed the system then anyone, including people who want to stop you, can take what you’re creating and remold it, redefine it, deconstruct it, keep building new machines in the system to handle this info-dump. 

PH: Be that as it may, it does seem like the current state of automation is creating the need for an alternative system of welfare and protection for individuals. As jobs disappear to machines we’re going to need some way to either put people back to work or admit that we need a system where the majority of people aren’t going to be able to engage in these kinds of jobs. 

TD: True, we may be heading that way, but I’m always cautious of Utopian rhetoric. Certainly artists would be ecstatic to live in a world where everything is automated to the point that anyone has the resources and time to pursue personal creative development, but then consider where that goes. Art is reaching increasing levels of automation too. And if you enter into a society that has no conflict, either external or internal, you’re going to lose a huge motivating factor for artistic development. Or any kind of development. 

PH: Would a post-scarcity, or post-capitalist society lack internal or external conflict do you think?

TD: I don’t think it would, but that’s my issue. Either you must admit that such a society will still engage in conflict, and it’s very likely that these conflicts will still be as devastating as they are today, or else you must set yourself up for a society of stagnation. 

PH: What do you think the major conflicts of such a society would be?

TD: First off, we need to realize that not every place in the world could just develop into this kind of culture and infrastructure a the same time. Let’s say that America became a post-Capitalist country. If that works out we could probably expect some other places with strong ties to us to follow suit eventually, like the UK, France, Germany, Canada. Allies really. But what about impoverished countries that cannot possibly automate this way? Are they just going to get pushed to the side, even more than they already are anyhow, or are we going to take it upon ourselves to impose our decisions onto these countries? Next up is the issue of specialization and energy. Even if basic needs are automated, you have the need for maintenance and the need for energy. So who’s maintaining this stuff? Either its privatized specialists or specialists employed by the collective or the government or what-have-you, and all it means is that a small group has enormous power over everyone else. Same case with energy. Where is it coming from? Even if its wind turbines or solar panels someone needs to install, build, design, those things. Finally, environmentalism and population issues. If the population keeps increasing, then even if we have automation, we’re fucked. Even if we have a clean cycle of automation where machines can somehow design, build, repair, and improve themselves, and let’s assume that they’re doing this without any semblance of self-aware intelligence, then all we’re doing is producing an infinitely expanding factory. Even if every product being produced is absolutely clean it would be destructive if the population doesn’t go down because industry would necessarily expand. 

PH: Is there no hope for a happy, stable humanity?

TD: Life has never been about happiness. Stop assuming you need it, stop assuming you deserve it, and stop assuming it’s the best thing to give to other people. There’s better ways to live and move forward. 

PH: Like what?

TD: I can’t tell you that, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job. 

Gomorrah: A Poem For The Fourth of July

Watch us here,
Mark us, our Empire, our World,
Be careful not to choke on your eyeful:
Our Irradiated, gold fields with their hands
     Stuck like beetles in tree sap.
     Unspeaking their woes with tanned lips,
     Choking behind masks and wasps.
     This is not what they wanted, but
     This is what they are given.
Our skylines with firefly eyes
     behind which, every night, is a beating.
     We were fools and couldn’t stand that
     these towers stood equal with a woman
     and her torch, so we built them higher
     and with fists that have no need to protect
     a flame or body.
Our Railways that straddle our waste
     from belt to sunken, feasting chains.
     What promise, what commerce, came from
     this iron stampede? The massacre of
     red, of green, of yellow: the mixing pot
     is our blood bag, struggling to pump
     the keep pure hope alive.
Gomorrahns: gun-soaked Gomorrahns,
     sign-waving Gomorrahns,
     white-housed Gomorrahns,
     murder-aquitting Gomorragns all.
     Our hands are so small because they
     never practiced holding another heart.
I would rather be a cockroach, K,
     than a patriot with their property.
     Be a smear before being a flag;
     be hurt by apples,
     before throwing down seeds.
What are we that worship a man with a
     kettle-hat equal to he who slew a mountain?
     A bum to he who wielded Freedom
     like Moses threw down Laws?
What are we that we do not pacify
     the birthing cry of gunpowder smoke
     that howled with war once, then again?
     But relish the thought of eternal birth,
     to kill another in the name of one liberty
     again and again?
Gomorrahns, we live on fatburgs
     we live on the backs of cleaners.
     Humanity is cleaner than ourselves in
     Its will to fix a nation of clogs.
     They have no need for voices anymore,
     they have learned to breathe without air,
     only swords are worth their lungs.
Hypocrites? No, for they will cut us down
     for virtue where we cut for fat.
     They will cleanse the vermin that
     would cleanse the wheat.
     They see the poverty in our cornucopia,
     They know what needs be done.
So stand aside your liberties,
     around your waiting coals.
     Wait upon your land, bought by
     ancestors from strangers.
     Stolen by strangers from strangers
     before them: the first blood of all Nations.
They are the swift God’s hand you have been waiting for:
     it is dark, it is unfair, it is beautiful, it is just,
     it is vengeful, it is unmanly, it is sick, it is real,
     it is scarred, it is afraid, it is what it is and
     it is not you.
Be grateful it is not you, your blessing
     is to be the first blood of a new Nation.
     Better than before.
     Welcome the difference.
     Gomorrah, it is time you become

Manifestophilis (Interviews With The Devil): Myths, Gods, Magic

Patrick Higgins: You’re very well read. 

The Devil: Well, when so much of the literary canon is about you it can be very useful to keep your finger on the pulse. Find out when you need to shake things up. Keep the heart beating.

PH: Would you say you’re the most prominent character in the history of literature?

TD: Probably not directly, no. But if you include me as an indirect figure. As a force, then maybe I could make the case. 

PH: You mean if we account for thematic and aesthetic elements we can still find you as a character in works where you don’t appear directly? 

TD: Something like that. Even structurally, any story of betrayal in a way can be traced back to me. At least in the West, but also in a lot of other places. Ancient Egyptian mythology, the Prometheus myth, all those stories are a web. And I crawl through that web to find my way into new stories. 

PH: Now you’re sounding like Anansi. 

PH: [Laughs] You caught that did you? Yeah, I kind of stole that bit. 

PH: So you’re not Anansi? You’re not the same person?

TD: No, we simply have some overlap in our interests. 

PH: Do you work together regularly?

TD: I wouldn’t say so. We just encounter each other sometimes when we attend events that appeal to the both of us. 

PH: Such as?

TD: Food-related stuff mostly. [laughs] Sneaking into potlucks, soup kitchens, wakes. Sometimes we see the same bands.

PH: Talking about yourself as a character in literature, you seem to suggest you have some power as an archetype.

TD: In the Jungian sense?

PH: Right, but you mention overlap with Anansi. Does that complicate this model of comparison? What stops me from saying that a story follows a Horusian, or Promethean model, rather than a Satanic model?

TD: Well nothing. They are quite fluid, but it’s a matter of publicity in some sense. I’ve got a very clear public image. Multiple public images really, and that image is in a lot more minds that Horus or Prometheus probably is. But I think that it should also be mentioned that figures like me, archetypal figures, can also be possessed by archetypes. Like, there’s me the trickster, or me the rebellious son, or me the traitor, or me the tempter. We have many different forms. We are possessed by these personas, these instincts, and those in turn change how we want to influence the world and other people. 

PH: Have you read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods? 

TD: I suspected this would come up. Yes I’ve read it, and Anansi Boys, and Good Omens.

PH: So you’re well-rounded in the recent utilization of mythology in contemporary fiction. 

TD: Perhaps, though there’s plenty more. American Gods is probably the most accessible and popular. It’s a well written book, interesting ideas, decent plot. 

PH: As someone who has interacted with Anansi would you agree with Neil Gaiman’s portrayal of the spirit? 

TD: It’s a yes-and-no situation. Very difficult to put into words. Again, as I said, there are many ways us so-called supernatural figures can be represented and do represent ourselves, and there is a battle there. Different figures are pitted against each other and compared in and across systems of belief, but I think it’s dangerous to equivocate cultural symbolism and trends to explicit religious beliefs and patterns. 

PH: So gods can’t be simply born by people believing enough? 

TD: They can if that’s what you’re trying to do. If you sit down and say I’m going to make a religion and make a religion, you’ve got a God. But saying that advertising, philosophy, symbols, things that spread are inherently religious because they affect the mind and belief is different. I would say it’s magical but I wouldn’t qualify it as religious. Or even spiritual. 

PH: Going back a bit, though, how does this play into your opinions of Gaiman’s work? I can see a criticism of his portrayal of new gods like The Technical Boy, but what about the old gods?

TD: Well, since Anansi is a cultural god of significant importance, and Gaiman is providing an inherently Americanized portrayal, it can cut away the bone of what Anansi is. The Gods in these works have to be generalized even when the author is doing his best to tie them back to their original roots. He has to melt down the archetypes into the mixing pot. I don’t fault him for this, it is about the Great American Melting Pot after all, but readers don’t always seem to understand that what makes gods and spirits and myths important is their ability to personally relate. Gaiman mentions in Anansi Boys how Anansi stories developed into Br’er Rabbit stories, and they also shows many synchronicities with Native American trickster stories, but I don’t think the message is that these things are godly because they are around us. These things are godly because people care about them and utilize them. When we say that media is a god, well why? Because it’s ubiquitous? People don’t worship things simply because they’re around us, or even because they’re important, there has to be something more. Some people may worship the media, but I think only a few people really actually feel a deep, spiritual connection there. Again, there’s a difference between a passingly developed addiction and worship.

PH: Would you say this legitimizes or delegitimizes the philosophy and practice of Chaos Magick developed by Peter Carroll, Robert Anton Wilson and the like?

TD: Well, I don’t think that Chaos Magick can really be delegitimized. As a practice it’s really just trying to break down the principles of what magickal practice is and how it can be used most efficiently by the individual. The problem is that it can go anywhere from that, and people go pretty ugly places. Giving anybody the tools to remake reality is problematic, especially when so many people are too lazy to read the whole instruction manual. It’s hard to say that contemporary Chaos Magick at all resembles the practice that Austin Osman Spare was trying to develop.

PH: Is there a proper use then?

TD: Most hardcore chaos magicians, the traditionalists, though they wouldn’t call themselves that, would probably say no. I say it’s art. Art is the proper application of magick. It’s the remodeling of the interior and exterior world, it’s a force in and of itself but it doesn’t necessarily force anything. It can only hope to succeed by the measure of its voice. 

PH: So then I guess it goes without saying that magick is real?

TD: Naturally. There’s just no way of guaranteeing when it works and when it doesn’t.

PH: Why did the summoning ritual work when I called you?

TD: First, because you had food. Second, because I knew you wanted to write, and that’s what I’m saying. What you’re doing is making a piece of art that speaks for itself. Even though this is an interview it doesn’t use my voice or your voice, it’s something else that’s been synthesized through many different powers. That’s a worthwhile magical practice. I don’t usually appear to people who just want money anymore, not unless there’s something worthwhile they’re going to do with it.

PH: So the diagrams and summoning circles didn’t have any effect at all? 

TD: Not really, that’s all just there for the sake of appearances. Aesthetic. 

PH: See, but I don’t think you’d have come if I didn’t do it. In addition to the other stuff you want to make sure you can keep up appearances. If you come with all the menacing threads it encourages me to follow through, and it encourages more of this artistic magickal practice. 

TD: Now you’re beginning to get it.