Control & Dearth in Language & Society: Terror’s Terms of Art

14 Jan

[This is an excerpt, omitting footnotes, from a paper written for a Conference in Europe]

This paper’s prefatory remarks exceed its body for the core of our crisis is language.

My primary concern in researching and discussing socio-economic, financial and geopolitical issues is with protecting human beings from the drive to centralize, manage, control and measure every aspect of life and relationships. We live in an age of Statism; of sanctimonious glorification of the compassion of this new idol that “tells lies in all the tongues of good and evil…for whatever it says it lies and whatever it has it has stolen.” I realize that this perspective counters the impulse of the postmodern academy which in the past century at least has “voluntarily left behind its critical element to become a mere instrumentality in serving the existing order.” While this “tireless self-destruction of enlightenment” is rooted in the formation and identity of the West it has reached its apocalyptic and elegiac stages since the Symbolist – Victorian period. Not coincidentally, that quarter century that witnessed the birth of the modern, “this strange disease of modern life,” generated complementary apocalyptic epics on the collapse of the realm “back into the beast” (Idylls of the King); it is hardly extenuating that one of them, Wagner’s Ring cycle exalted a coming “Age of Aquarius” that already was flowering in the regressions of theosophy and early Symbolist visual arts.

Before addressing primary concerns with hunger, militarization and control I must comment on language and ask whether the academy again might play a critical rather than a priestly function in its relation to an increasingly centralized State-media-banking apparatus relentlessly engaged in an Orwellian reduction of discourse. Digital tech empowers the spectacle and the subjection of life by artifice to unprecedented levels. So it may be that “public life has reached a state in which thought is being turned into a commodity and language into celebration of the commodity.” If so, or rather, to the extent that this already is true, then “attempts to trace the sources of this degradation must refuse obedience to current linguistic and intellectual demands before it is rendered entirely futile” by the drive for total control by the postmodern diffused State apparatus (Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, preface 1944).

Can we do this? Can academics retrieve a critical stance toward centralized managerial power or is humanity doomed to an end game in which “the professor and anchorman fuse” in the smothering and seamless tutorial of the Nanny State’s “knowledge industry”? The mass-produced diction of “critical thinking” reflects the degree that critical thinking has vanished; the extent to which it has, perhaps, become impossible as  people ‘informed’ by major media “think to order” (Spengler, The Decline of the West, “Philosophy of Politics, the Press”).

The corruption of language is the core of the deteriorating situation of humanity in the world. It precludes understanding and ensures impoverishment of the many and increasing centralization of wealth and power. It is intrinsic to discussions of popular culture; indeed, corruption of language is embedded in popular culture which, the more genuine a form of discourse or relationship may be in inception, the sooner it is colonized and mediated to insure the masses are herded in the direction that suits the managerial classes and the Directorate that funds them. This corruption infects all of a society, not least the dominant tendency’s scholarly discourse that increasingly presents as a medium of channeled thought, control of behavior and constraint of choices. Complicit language creates a global monoculture and such formations do not survive.

A core text for grasping the death grip in which humanity now writhes with little understanding of how and why it is being squeezed is chapter 9 of The Trial, “In the Cathedral.” In a seminal discussion and at the climax of his quest for insight, Joseph K talks with the priest who, he says, also “is the prison chaplain.” He explains, ex cathedra so to speak, that the nature of Joseph’s problem is that he doesn’t grasp the relation between truth and power and the subservience of the former to the latter. “It is not necessary to know whether something is true” declares the priest, “but only to understand that it is necessary.” This is the essence of the de facto fascism presented to people, the conditioning to ‘the tone of truth’ in which they are dosed. Readers and viewers at every level, from Alphas to Epsilons (to apply Huxley’s bemused schema from Brave New World), are “informed” in Spengler’s sense, with “a willingness to think to order” according to the language presented to them by the de facto Ministry of New Speak. Thus participants in a distinguished conference at an august site vie for places as servants of global disinformation and managing human inventory, for promotion, perks and higher salary by speaking of the Anglo-American activation of their Muslim Brotherhood utensil (“the brothers” as they routinely are termed in The Economist) as a “revolutionary awakening” that, as we were endlessly told was sparked by ‘social media,’ itself an interesting locution for a form of information gathering and surveillance in which the watched surrender their privacy and plans to their watchers in a cult of total exposure. Thus a terminal sleep and zombie-condition is termed an “awakening” as if it were a chapter in Orwell’s book. The masters of the machine wish to reduce their chattel to the twittering impotence of chattering birds, fodder for guided violence which then requires ‘security measures’ to control and manage ‘the people.’ A similar dynamic plays in the mass medication of children who are dosed with violent video games and crushed by the vacuous tedium of public education. This in due course culls the herd and makes it more pliable to the putatively benevolent suasions of the State.

All of the numbing results, the cult of the image and spectacle which is a culture of terror as fictions and ephemera displace lives and living, is outcome-based: ‘the people,’ a target audience and herd of consumers conditioned to work and spend on plastic like the drones in Brave New World are moved toward a condition of befuddled dependency and impoverishment. As Kafka’s priest states: “the verdict is not suddenly arrived at; the proceedings only gradually merge into the verdict.” Thus we see with the media’s wholesaling of ‘conventional wisdom’ as the mediated proceedings merge into a ‘common knowledge’ that serves the interests of the managerial and extractive State.

To discuss the nexus between financial manipulation, destruction of savings, dearth and hunger one must strip films of deceit and self-interested acquiescence from terms like “sustainability” and “security” to address State coercion and the conscripted role that an increasingly complicit academic class plays in sacralizing a leveled global playing field. Huizinga identified the spirit of play as essential to culture but he saw humanity through an imperial Western and Churchly portal (Homo Ludens). The manipulation of human perception and expectation has been perfected by the masters of the West who adroitly have veiled it as an enforced and sanctimonious ‘multiculturalism’ to hide its dominating, impoverishing core. This era of triumphant fictions condemns fertility and abundance. Abortion and contraception have been established as sacraments of a ‘modern’ and ‘sophisticated’ woman whose image is endlessly exalted on screens. The death’s head seen on so many tattoos and tee shirts is the fitting icon of the de-population agenda deriving from Galton, Darwin, Sanger and Julian Huxley. The Third Reich was a cresting wave of modernism and it, like the church that negates life on this world, which exalts its dogmatic fictions over life is its postmodern epitome. There it is: postmodernism is the end game of Christianity. Freedom of thought has perverted itself to serve power  and infuses “the great Petrifact” Spengler described (the Megalopolis and its financial, pseudo-democratic crushing of humanity and abundance). It is its instrument of control imprisoning humanity and the myriad truths that enable society to function and thrive. Perverted language and thought preempted by endless spectacles from the Academy Awards to the SuperBowl to the Inauguration and ‘State of the Union’ are, as Adorno wrote, as all the great dystopias explain a triumph of death and sign of cultural decadence and collapse….

Percy Shelley described it all with tersely chilling grief in “The Triumph of Life” (1822)….


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