IMAGERY, INFLATION, DEPRESSION AND CONTROL
May 19, 2012
Idealization is an inflationary process. As the idyllic process consumes the energies of the imagining host, depression ensues. As the host collapses, the managers of the image, in politics, economics, ethics, require total allegiance to shadows of the original primary qualities from the dollar to marriage, to the rules of electoral office and sport. All are debased. Hype, over-stimulation and deformation re-shape and debase life which becomes ‘virtual reality.’ Boosted by electronic media, idealization ends in totalitarianism.
The tyranny of the screen is nearly omnipresent. Discourse has become the chattering clichés of conversation interruptus. Human minds are occupied by user names and passwords. In effect if not fully in fact, these and other computer codes have become ‘individuals.’ Derivatives of information technology, touted for its efficiency and ‘interactive’ quality, a mockery of intercourse, these abstractions or electronic ‘soul prints,’ along with voice prints, retinal scans, x-rays and such are creating a nightmare of ‘transparency’ that mocks postmodern re-definitions of privacy. Genuine privacy, humanity and human relations are retreating before the glare of this electronic storm.
Thoreau’s injunction to “simplify” has never been more necessary for human life to renew itself. By simplicity I do not mean impoverishment but substantial forms of value. But the masters of the image machine in its various facets, -- media, finance, culture, politics, etc – are driving toward poverty masked by dazzling promises, smiles and ‘perfect’ figures and skin. Though they are responsible, they can not do otherwise: this dynamic inheres in the idyll that imbues Western culture. Nietzsche observed that the obsessive “demand for beauty” of the Greeks arose from a deep sense of loss and terror. This sense was rooted in their metamorphic perception of life: transfiguration of self is a death and displacement by the demonic and abstract as the self is replaced by an image-ideal, an idol for worship.
Note that cultures everywhere are very susceptible to and yearn to imitate the paradigm of the idyll, of transfigurative idealizing and the triumph of artifice, to become their own idols. The ‘ideal’ is the cynically constructed and enforced primary ‘narrative,’ a dogma of our times like multi-culturalism. This ‘truth’ of the dominant tendency is one way that “lying becomes a universal principle,” that, as Orwell similarly wrote, “the past is erased, the erasure forgotten and the lie becomes truth.”
Before commenting on economics, finance and cultural collapse as a part of creating a global state of total control, a few words on image-work per se are useful.
The orientation toward reality that is the West’s inheritance from ancient Greece is the metamorphosis or transfiguration of the self through imagery. It is the fashioning of a dream ideal or idyll that gives us words “idyllic” and “ideal” cognate with the root idol. To see (idein) the dialectic coupling at the root of existence (the id) results in fantasies of horror and fantastic idealizations. This idealizing is a kind of idol worship; the self, the entire culture, a principle abstracted from it, perhaps once a veridical term (“democracy” or “dollar”), is idealized and in its abstracted form is worshipped. Any one or any group that stands outside the idyll or comments on its artificial nature is anathema, “a mere black dot that must be crushed like a bug.” In this oppression, the horror within grows, feeding on denial while thoughts and culture become increasingly generic.
Once an artificial image, fiction, people, regional entity or currency has been established it possesses and displaces the host from which it was abstracted and elaborated. It draws to itself and claims the energy and resources of the original as the Euro absorbed the currencies and economies of discrete nations. In the early decades or years of this process, there may be a high degree of elegance in the idyll, as in professional sports. But over time, and the period varies from centuries for cultures to decades for discrete societies and institutions like Universities or marriage, decay and regression to the primitive occur. Often this regression is embedded in the fiction as demonism as in Coleridge’s Geraldine, a hero/heroine of radically indeterminate nature and, thus, an epitome of terror. Courtship and marriage ritual become proms and lavish occasions for advertising new kinds of gender behavior and ‘styling.’ Eventually the artifice in the fiction’s glory and power utterly consumes its host and rules in its place, requiring recognition as the one and only sovereign entity of the state, channel, nation, continent or world. As the host dies, the image expands its empire over the world like Isis Omnia over late classical cults. Because it is an illusion, a fiction, an image those who manage it demand and extort ever higher degrees of obedience and tribute. Like the Roman Empire or Ottoman Caliphate, eventually there is no juice left to squeeze from the survivors to sustain the edifice Rex. The ultimate form of Aesthetics is the State; the essence of the State, of idealization, is imperial and its necessary goal, universal. Its form, totalitarian.
Electronic and digital technologies enable the managers of the postmodern machine, “the state that follows history” to expand its coverage, the smog of its ‘truths’ globally and to shape the minds of the viewing public to its phantasmagoria of ‘news.’ The medium has a characteristic stew of culturetainment for all forms of expression and mores lose their traditional structure and tone when blended into the pudding of virtual reality. The high degree of illusion requires consent: it is as mandatory as death and taxes. Law, much less justice, is displaced by “the rule of law” or “color of law” in which every term, word and value is fungible, putty for the image-masters. Thus there is the dominion of lawless law, i.e. the unhindered rule of those who wield the media of power. In this the antinomianism of the dissenting churches that gave force to American freedom has come back to bite us. The ‘inner light’ has become ‘an evolving document,’ a tool of enforcement in the hands of the imposers of the fiction. Now they ‘wave the bloody flag’ for the State again has made patriotism a major prop and fig leaf for its contempt of our tradition and feeding on lives. Thus, amped up appeals to patriotism undergird the proliferation of no-win wars for ‘security’ that serve to distract and impoverish while creating new classes of wounded that the remnants of patriotism expends itself in seeking to heal. The purpose of ‘security’ is terror as per the methods of the TSA, the ‘balancing’ of the economy by the Fed or the proliferation of domestic ‘protection’ orders that obliterate families, fathers & children.
For the humans that remain, and to the extent to which they remain sensitive to their humanity and cognizant of the past, tradition and history, including the nuances and beauty of language, depression is concomitant to the triumph of the image. Just so, the inflation of a financial system unhinged from genuine value creates economic depression. The purpose is the same: to extract and engorge the vitality of the humans cajoled, tempted and at last forced to shape themselves to the fictions without and within their media-tainted consciousness.
Economy, the deployment of the energy, genius and strength of the nation is distorted by the machinery of State through which it is funneled. It becomes not simply exploitive, wasteful and corrupting but artificial, strained and untenable, growing via ‘financial instruments’ – derivatives, credit default swaps, hedges, electronic credits, the galaxy of financial ‘paper’ -- till depression follows inflation. Just as an image-ideal or eidolon soon terrifies and petrifies its host, so the financial system, increasingly unreal, over-stimulated and grandiose like all the hyped and hyperactive fare served from the electronic coliseum mortifies the economy, society and what is human within it. A sign that this system was detached from value was the sabotage of genuine money, mandated in Scriptures as the basis of fairness and justice. This was the time of ‘no-fault’ divorce and Roe v Wade when the Vietnam War’s disheartening and planned anti-climax segued into the October 1973 war, the era of oil and jihad, of giant entitlements (snares) and postmodern dogmas that, “like appetite the universal wolf” voraciously attacked all established norms and terms of value and meaning. The West has been toppling since then and for the last five years has been crashing. As the fictions triumph it is inevitable that a persona fronts the machine like an obituary for the West, the dominion of lying that Kafka foresaw. The spectacle turns one to stone and it is stone: a petrifact, the domain of Persephone. Beneath the dazzle is the abyss, like the horror and darkness within the persona of Kurtz and European aesthetics generally. Rousseau’s concept of “the Sovereign” as an abstraction of the rights of genuine individuals signaled the elegiac phase of the West, first in Europe, and prefigured the “Sovereign Debt crises” whose fictions are destroying the world’s economy, and thus, lives, today.
Beneath, behind and through the glittering goddesses created by the machine and thrust upon us for distraction and adulation is the “grim she-wolf” that embodies in its leanness “all the world’s cravings,” above all the lust for power and desire to extract and feed on life. This is the dark end to a cult of dazzling imagery “in the grim wasteland” “where the straight way was lost” and the very horizon seems to describe “the moaning circle of a moaning sea.” The core of transfiguration is dissolution of boundaries, trauma and collapse. To the Directorate, trauma is a valuable by-product of attrition-wars and family courts. Its orchestrated faux-elegiac ceremonies and ‘assistance’ for those traumatized in its self-aggrandizing wars disguise its investment in socio-economic trauma of all kinds.
Trauma thrives in the jazz of hype, hyped emotions, images and products material and financial. Over-stimulation, confusion, endless selling of mostly worthless ‘goods’ when good and evil change their names and forms; inflation, depression, managed terror and the genuine terror inspired by a State whose reach necessarily is global and whose coverage and dogmas totalitarian. The facilitated management of generic human inventory is a culture of terror that proceeds by provoking and encouraging terror from finance, to geopolitics to the bedroom. At the same time, the more stereotypically ‘outrageous’ imagery becomes, the more generic it is and the more thoroughly it exhausts its hosts. The treadmill doesn’t end: “don’t outlive your money,” they instruct and the industry of health will ensure, just as in Brave New World that very few outlive their allotted credits which now are in default.
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What one is left with at the end of the arc of the image-cult is “a heap of broken images where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter.” The ultimate social form of aesthetics is the State; in an idealizing culture, the State is the ultimate idol and its need is total control and recognition of its fictions, plausible and implausible. A highly leveraged derivative of freedom, the State disguises itself in simulacra and invocations of the word, concept and forms of freedom’s practice. In doing so it makes freedom a husk consuming and displacing it as Geraldine possessed and displaced Christabel.
The main sources of image-worship, of over-stimulation and trauma are the media, Federal Reserve and legislation. Public schools and televisions are primary conveyors of tyranny, of cultural collapse. One still can garden, vote, home-school and avoid the hype in ‘higher education’s’ cost and promises. That would change things, weakening the tyranny of the image and its various damages: Any old port in a storm. Cultivate your garden.
Dr. Narrett has published a short Memoir, Thanksgiving available here.
Eugene Narrett blogs on literature, cultural identity & dynamics.
Eugene Narrett’s recent book Culture of Terror: The Collapse of America, on Amazon.
© 2012 Eugene Narrett - All Rights Reserved
Friedrich Nietzsche, author’s preface to 2nd edition of The
Birth of Tragedy (1886)
2. Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925), chapter 9; George Orwell 1984, chapter 7, a slight paraphrase of the motto.
3. Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter & Forgetting, Part I
4. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Christabel” (1797; 1801; published 1816)
5. Kundera op. cit. Part VI
6. Mephistopheles uses this term to refer to Faust’s image ideal, the “Margaret” reflected in the mirror he gazes upon in “The Witches’ Kitchen” and later on the Venusberg, the mountain setting of Walpurgisnacht (Goethe, Faust Book I). He notes that the eidolon is like a medusa: staring at images “turns one to stone.”
7. William Shakespeare, Troilus & Cressida, I.iii; c.f. Dante, Inferno canto i.49-111
8. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1900)
9. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book II sections 1-4
10. Alfred Tennyson, Idylls of the King, book 12, “The Passing of Arthur,” 1-130 passim; c.f. book 8, “The Holy Grail” 740 – end and T. S. Eliot’s modernist version, “The Wasteland” (1922). It is notable that Tennyson wrote and completed his epic of the rise and collapse of the West’s core fiction during the same quarter century that Wagner wrote his apocalyptic epic, The Ring Cycle. Eliot, an American from St. Louis, transfigured himself into a high church Englishman, a cultivated anti-Semite, regressing to the core of Western high culture. The verses quoted are “Wasteland” I.22-3
11. Aldous Huxley’s novel satirizing his older brother, Julian’s, world-transforming vision of total control of a totally conditioned and managed populace built on the model of a pyramid.
12. Laurel & Hardy, “Pack Up Your Troubles” (1932, Hal Roach studios)
13. Translation of the ‘escape clause’ Voltaire repeatedly suggests late in his novel, Candide (1759)