Month: April 2019

The Violence in the Virtual

If the process instigated by Nietzsche and carried forth in postmodernism is indeed the obliteration of any cogent distinction between simulation and reality—as in the ‘Aura of the Digital‘, for instance—then this process must obtain not just for matter, or money, or social mores, but moreover for violence as well: the distinction between virtual and physical violence, too, must wither away, and the two become increasingly interchangeable.

This interchangeability is now readily seen, in the virtual-to-physical direction, in the steadily growing list of mild insults and disagreements that are classified as “violence”, such as “microaggressions” or “victimizations” or “damaged self-esteem” or “being made to feel unsafe”. But it is the other, virtual-to-physical direction that is even more alarming, for there lies the possibility that visualizations and simulations of violence–the most pitiless and realistic of which already saturate our entertainment and popular culture–will cease to be even distinguishable from physical carnage, so that, being already inured to, accepting of, and indeed amused by the one, we will find no credible grounds for rejecting the other.

To repeat, “physical violence” can only be seriously considered more objectionable than “simulated violence” so long as there remains a trusted demarcation between “the physical” and “the simulated”. And yet this demarcation has already been mightily breached: it has become a cliché by now in popular discussions of physics to speak of “the universe as simulation”, the “holographic principle”, and so forth, while even at the heart of physics there has been an undeniable evolution towards sheer mathematical abstraction, exemplified in “quantum wave functions”, “metric tensors”, “string theories”, and even in much older notions like “action at a distance”. As for the side of simulation moving to become physics, one has only to skim the endless encomiums in the media to the coming “Internet of Things”, “augmented reality”, or “the mirrorworld” to see this complementary prong of the attack gleefully underway.

In sum, we have de-realized the universe from under our feet–and seem still hungry to carry the process to its every last logical conclusion. And so what sheer credulity is it to think that violence, alone, will somehow remain exempt? That it will keep its place, or content itself with mere gestures, sentiments, images? To think, as some do, that violence will only ever continue to move in the first direction, from physicality into virtuality, is hopeless–not simply because there is no compelling reason (let alone law) for that motion not to reverse but, even more problematically, because the direction itself necessarily becomes arbitrary once the real/virtual distinction is lost. The only thing that can stop the disintegration is a faith in the difference, faith in the Real—though that, too, has its problems.

The Blind That Lead the Woke

The goal in our time is erasure and indeed prohibition of all forms of difference as “forms of oppression”… excepting those differences that are wholly self-avowed. These latter—so long as they are not pre-designated as “oppressor”—are instead to be celebrated without exception, being invariably described as neither chosen nor coerced, but as arising from a deep inner, personal source or animistic essence: “my truth”. This “essence”, curiously, is seen as in no way constructed and both it and its needs as absolutely non-negotiable, even though it is in practice often promulgated for entirely external, consensual reasons, such as increased approval and status within the “woke” herd.

This also implies that the racial, ethnic & cultural differences that are so front-and-center in “social justice” movements are really apprehended only in a severely reductive and bowdlerized form–essentially as an individual-centric spiritual “flavor” that may, as if by happenstance, exist across a group, and not as a free-standing, deeply interwoven cultural structure with its own intricate world of meanings and demands that actually breathes its life into a group. These various traditions and ways-of-life, existing wholly outside of the SJW’s field of vision, are thus treated with words of gushy, conspicuous reverence, but with deeds that are profoundly patronizing (such as the hijab-donning politicians in New Zealand).

Thus is born “diversity”: a potpourri of meaningless, essentially narcissistic, pre-approved “flavors” of individual, all dissociated (atomized) from any of the sustaining meanings of their original cultures (let alone deities), all displaying with proud resentment the sacred brand of victimhood, and all merging (conforming) together under a single emergent culture of the debauched Self. This atomized conformity is, indeed, a “melting pot” of the highest intensity; but it is also one with no shape or mold into which to solidify, since “assimilation” is here deemed equivalent to chauvinism, and truth to prejudice.

We may say the greatest danger of the social-justiciars, then, is their complete blindness, despite (or even better, because of) their ideology of “social constructedness”, to the real meaning, value and richness of a functioning culture, of group identification—for these are things, bluntly, that none of them have ever seen or experienced. This blindness leads them to a vision of an “inclusive” world on the model of a chaotic mass, heaped together from the individual level with at most the aid of technical organization, but without any inspiration concerning the living structure, customs and principles that must intervene between the level of the individual and the whole in order for there to be culture, let alone civilization.

We see here that the fatal limitation of SJW—even if to be considered as nothing less than an emerging successor-culture to the decaying West—is the way in which it continually mistakes collectivism for culture (much in the way that, in other fields, derivation has been mistaken for truth). There is the collective, and within it there are, rattling around, the woke individuals with zheir inviolable inner essences and identities; but there is nothing to mediate the gulf between these levels, except technology and power. Thus the rule of SJW, if it is achieved, will defer, out of sheer lack of anything else, increasingly to these and these alone.