20 Jul 2024

Get Off Your Knees and Hear the Insect Prayer: Notes on the Ant People

Get Off Your Knees and Hear the Insect Prayer
 

I. 
 
When I came across a reference the other day to the Ant People, I immediately thought of the Adam and the Ants slogan: Ant Music for Sex People: Sex Music for Ant People [1]
 
I had long believed that this line simply referred to those whom the cultural commentator Peter York once described as the "'extreme ideological wing of the Peculiars'" [2] - i.e., those who used to hang around Sex - and, secondly, to those who were hardcore fans of Adam and the Ants.

I now discover, however, that existing long before Adam and Marco ever walked through the doors of 430 King's Road, were a legendary race of highly advanced beings (possibly of extraterrestrial origin) known as the Ant People, and venerated by the Hopi Indians; a tribe of Native Americans who have lived on the high arid mesas of northern Arizona for thousands of years [3]
 
 
II. 
 
According to Hopi legend, in times of global catastrophe, it was the Anu Sinom, or Ant People, who come to their rescue and offered them sanctuary in underground caves, which essentially formed a natural network of subterranean prayer chambers, or what the Hopi call kivas (a word which etymologically means beautiful dwelling place).      
 
No wonder then that the Hopi refer to the Ant People with their elongated skulls, almond-shaped eyes, tiny waists, and long skinny arms and legs, as their friends: Anu-naki.  
 
And one can only hope that if members of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil are correct in their dire predictions of a coming eco-apocalypse, that we palefaces will have some benevolent insects come to our rescue (although I doubt it and don't think we deserve such).    
 

Notes
 
[1] This line is a refrain in the Adam and the Ants track 'Don't Be Square (Be There)', found on the album Kings of the Wild Frontier (CBS Records, 1980): click here.   

[2] Peter York, writing in an article entitled 'Them', Harpers & Queen (October 1976), quoted by Paul Gorman in The Life and Times of Malcolm McLaren (Constable, 2020), p. 329. 

[3] See Gary A. David, 'The Ant People of the Hopi' (13 October, 2013) on the website Ancient Origins: click here.
 
 

19 Jul 2024

Reflections on the Lovely Lady Christabel

Lorrie Millington: Lady Christabel (1983)
 
 
I.
 
I have to admit, my knowledge of the English Romantic poet Coleridge is fairly limited; I know he was pals with Wordsworth; I know he helped introduce the English-speaking world to German idealism; and I know he was fond of opium. 
 
If pushed, I suppose I would also admit to knowing he was an influential literary critic and dreamed at one time of establishing an egalitarian community on pantisocratic lines. 
 
Oh, and I know of course that he's the author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and Kubla Khan (completed in 1797, but not published until 1816). 
 
However, it's the long narrative poem Christabel that fascinates me at the moment and which I would like to briefly reflect on here ... 

 
II.
 
Christabel consists of two parts; the first writen in 1797 and the second in 1800. [1]
 
The story concerns a central female character - Christabel - who one day goes into the woods to pray by a large oak tree. There, she encounters a strange young woman named Geraldine, who claims to have been abducted from her home by men on horseback. 

Sympathetic to Geraldine's plight, she takes her home with her and they spend the night together, sharing a bed (this despite a number of supernatural signs that Christabel might have been well-advised to take as warnings). 

Whilst Christabel remains somewhat enchanted by Geraldine, she gradually begins to realise the latter's malign (possibly inhuman) nature. Her father, however, is completely enthralled by the latter and orders a grand procession to celebrate her rescue.
 
Somewhat frustratingly, that's where the (unfinished) poem stops; it appears that Coleridge couldn't quite make up his mind about how to end it.    

 
III.
 
This poem appeals to me for its queer gothic character, founded upon a number of perverse and supernatural elements, and I'm not surprised to learn that Shelley and Byron were both obsessed with Christabel. If it gave the former nightmares, the latter was delighted by its sapphic undertones (the relationship between Christabel and Geraldine is implicitly sexual).   
 
Other writers who have fallen under the poem's spell include Edgar Allan Poe [2], Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu [3], Renée Vivien [4], and A.S. Byatt, who names a fictional romantic poet Christabel in her award-winning novel Possession (1990).  
 
Unsurprisingly, Christabel also became favourite reading amongst feminists; the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, for example, named her daughter in honour of the poem's eponymous heroine (though she might have been more appropriately named Geraldine in my view) [5].   
 
 
IV.

Finally, a brief note on the image used to illustrate this post ...

Initially, I was going to reproduce Julia Margaret Cameron's 1866 photograph named after Coleridge's poem and depicting the titular character [6]

But then I remembered that in an old photo album kept in a box in the attic, I still had a picture sent to me by the artist, model, dancer, and writer Lorrie Millington [7] over forty years ago, of a mannequin named Lady Christabel with whom she shared a house in Leeds. 
 
In the summer of 1984, I began writing a 20,000 word novella entitled 'The Girl in the Mystery Castle', about Miss Millington and her relationship with the lovely Lady Christabel and it has always been my intention to one day complete this tale.
 
However, as this now seems very unlikely, I have decided to share the photo here ...
 
If one looks closely enough, one will see that Christabel is wearing a wig that has been braided pirate style and has an Apache war stripe painted across her nose, the reason being that Lorrie and I were both Ant People back in the early-mid '80s.   
 

Notes
 
[1] Coleridge planned on adding three further parts, but these were never completed. The work was published in a pamphlet in 1816, alongside Kubla Khan and another poem, The Pains of Sleep (written 1803). Christabel can be read on the Poetry Foundation website: click here
 
[2] Poe's poem 'The Sleeper' (1831) is said to be inspired by Christabel. It can be read on the Poetry Foundation website: click here.
 
[3] Le Fanu based the character of Mircalla, the Countess Karnstein, on Geraldine. See my post of 13 April 2020 on the topic of vampiric lesbianism in which I discuss Le Fanu's novella Carmilla (1872): click here.  

[4] Vivien's 1904 novel L'Etre Double, a lesbian romance, was also inspired by Coleridge's poem Christabel. See my post of 9 October 2013 in praise of sapphic decadence in which I discuss the work of Renée Vivien: click here.
 
[5] I'm not a fan of the militant idealism and the terrorist tactics advocated by Pankhurst, which invariably collapse into the black hole of fascism. See the post dated 17 February 2024 on suffragettes and the BUF: click here
 
[6] For more details and to view the photograph, please visit the Met Museum website: click here. And for a post dated 23 June 2023 written with reference to Cameron's photography, click here.  
 
[7] For a post dated 18 April 2015 written in memory of Lorrie Millington, click here.


18 Jul 2024

Beneath the Wheel

 
Stephen Alexander: Beneath the Wheel (2024) 

 
I.
 
If any image brutally encapsulates the idea of tragic irony, then it is surely the one above.

It shows a young hedgehog seeking refuge beneath a parked car in a residential area of east London in which almost every last garden and green open space has been concreted over and built upon, leaving this lovable little creature with nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. 
 
He might not know what fate has in store for him, but, sadly, we as viewers have a pretty good idea ... 
 
 
II. 
 
When I was a child in the 1970s, there were over 30 million hedgehogs snuffling around UK gardens; now it is believed there are probably no more than a million. Mostly this is due to the loss and fragmentation of habitat and the widespread use of pesticides. But many hedgehogs were (and still are) killed on the roads each year.   
 
In that same period, the UK human population has grown by ten million and the number of cars has increased from 27 million to 33 million. Personally, I would rather there were fewer people, fewer cars, and many, many more hedgehogs.
 
To paraphrase D. H. Lawrence: I think in this world there is room for me and a hedgehog. And I think how easily we might spare a million or two humans and never miss them. Yet what a gap in existence, the furry face of that cute little mammal with a pig-like snout. [1]
 
 
Notes
 
[1]  I'm paraphrasing the final verse of Lawrence's poem 'Mountain Lion'. See The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, (Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 352.  


17 Jul 2024

Memories of Summer '84: Charisma

Just another day in the press office at Charisma Records 
for Jazz and Lee Ellen (1984)
 
 
Entry from The Von Hell Diaries Tuesday 7 August 1984

By the time I got into Charisma this morning, Lee Ellen was already freaking out because Malcolm had cancelled three cover-interviews [1]. As she tried to re-arrange things, I was sent over to McLaren's office on Denmark Street with two cheques: the first for £5000 (a video fee) and the second for £20,000 (advance against the next album). 
 
I had also been given a letter, marked private and confidential, that I was instructed to hand personally to Malcolm. Unfortunately, there was no one in to receive either the letter or the cheques when I got to Moulin Rouge. However, on the way out I bumped into Malcolm and we both went up to his first floor office.
 
Clearly, the contents of the letter were not to his liking. And when Carrolle [2] arrived, he told her she couldn't have the half-day agreed, but would have to type up an immediate reply, which I was to then take back to Charisma. While they worked on the letter, I chatted with Andrea [3] who, by this time, had also arrived at the office. 
 
As well as the letter, Malcolm also gave me three tape cassettes and a small box containing 'valuable jewellery' that he wanted to have couriered to Nick Egan [4] in New York without the US customs knowing anything about it. I was told to wrap the things up carefully and if anyone asked at Charisma what the package contained I should tell them it was a rubber fish. 
 
For security, I was put in a cab by Carrolle - even though the walk from Denmark Street to Wardour Street is literally only a few minutes via Soho Square.              
 
Later, Lee Ellen called me and said I should meet her at 6 o'clock at the Soho Brasserie on Old Compton Street, where Malcolm was going to give an interview to someone from Time Out. Had a fun night chatting, eating sausages, and drinking Black Russians. The Melody Maker journalist Colin Irwin joined us - he's clearly in love with Lee Ellen, but then, to be fair, who isn't?
 
The terrible trio - Glen Colson, Jock Scott, and Keith Allen [5] - also briefly came over. Not sure I'm a fan of the latter; a bit too aggessive for my tastes, so glad when he and his pals headed off to the Wag Club. 
 
Found it ironic that, interview over, Talcy Macly of all people should tell me he's never seen anyone as pale as I am. He asked Lee Ellen what she'd being doing to me. 
 
He also advised that I needed to 'calm down' a little, saying that he'd never want to rob a bank with me as I made him a nervous wreck. 'Listen Jazz boy', he said, 'you've got to learn how to make people feel comfortable. Be a bit more cunning; don't show so much enthusiasm'. Having acted as my mentor-cum-career's advisor, he then launched into a long (but fascinating) monologue about Oscar Wilde. 
 
With regret, I left in time to catch the last tube back to Chiswick. Lee Ellen told me the next day that Malcolm kept her up until 2am with his stories and his complaints that pictures from a recent photo session had made him look like Michael Bentine. 
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Lee Ellen Newman was the Press Officer at Charisma Records, a label founded in 1969 by Tony Stratton Smith and home to a few old hippies, such as Genesis, but also the label to which Malcolm McLaren was signed.

[2] Carrolle Payne was McLaren's Personal Assistant at Moulin Rouge (25, Denmark Steet). 
  
[3] Andrea Linz was a talented fashion student and McLaren's girlfriend and muse at the time. 
 
[4] Nick Egan is a visual artist and graphic designer who collaborated with Mclaren on many projects in the early and mid-1980s. 
 
[5] Glen Colson was a music publicist associated with Charisma Records; Jock Scott was a popular performance poet (about whom I published a post on 18 April 2016 in his memory - click here); Keith Allen was associated at this time with a group of British comic actors known as the Comic Strip. 
 
 
Musical bonus: Malcolm McLaren, 'Madam Butterfly (un bel di vedremo)', single released from the album Fans (Charisma Records, 1984) on 20 August 1984: click here. Video directed by Terence Donovan.
 
 
For further memories of the summer of 1984, click here and/or here.    
 

16 Jul 2024

Memories of Summer '84: Stringfellows

Bev Hillier photographed in the office at Just Seventeen 
(Soho, 1984)

 
Entry from The Von Hell Diaries Wednesday 11 July 1984 
 
As I had nothing better to do and nowhere else to go, I spent the afternoon hanging around Soho ... 
 
Crossed paths with Adam Ant and Marco Pirroni on Wardour Street. I was tempted to say hello, but didn't. After all, what can one say without immediately adopting the position of a fan? 
 
Called in to see Lee Ellen at Charisma [1]. She was going to a party at Stringfellows [2] to celebrate the launch of Music Box [3] and invited me along. 
 
Can't say I was particularly impressed by the venue or the crowd and, alarmed by the bar prices, felt every inch the society boy on social security ... [4] 
 
Dave Vanian and Rat Scabies from the Damned were there; as was Feargal Sharkey and Midge Ure. Couldn't decide if I was in pop star heaven or pop star hell and wasn't sure they'd know either. 
 
Was more impressed by the Amazonian-like cocktail waitresses; tall, leggy blondes wearing tutus and skimpy leotards. At some point, one of them squeezed the square-padded shoulders of my jacket and said: 'Are they real?' 
 
I suppose she was just trying to be funny, but it seemed a bit cheeky at the time and I couldn't help thinking that one might squeeze her breasts and ask the same. 
 
Before leaving, I made small talk with the photographer Neil Matthews and the video director Tim Pope. I like the former: not sure about the latter; friendly, but don't really know him. 
 
Also stopped to say hello to Bev Hillier, the features assistant at Just Seventeen, who I have always had something of a crush on. 
 
She looked sexy dressed in a stripy sailor outfit, but told me she hoped one day to meet a rich man who would take her away from everything, as she didn't want to still be on the party circuit and working all hours for a magazine when aged forty. 
 
Made me wonder on the way home if anyone is ever really happy with their job (with their life)?
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Lee Ellen Newman was the Press Officer at Charisma Records, a label founded in 1969 by Tony Stratton Smith and home to a few old hippies, such as Genesis, but also the label to which Malcolm McLaren was signed. 
 
[2] Music Box was a pioneering pan-European 24-hour cable and satellite television channel operated by Thorn EMI and Virgin Vision. It broadcast from 29 March 1984 to 30 January 1987, before the world decided that what it really wanted to watch was MTV. 
 
[3] Stringfellows was a London nightclub opened by Peter Stringfellow in 1980. A venue at which the rich and famous loved to party throughout the 1980s and early-1990s. 
 
[4] An amusing phrase taken from a song entitled 'The Suit' found on the album Metal Box (Virgin Records 1979), by Public Image Ltd. Click here.
 
 
For further memories of the summer of 1984, please click here and/or here.  
 

15 Jul 2024

Memories of Summer '84: Emmerdale

Lorrie Millington taking a photo of me taking a photo of her 
as we walk in the West Yorkshire countryside
(8 June 1984)

 
 
Entry From The Von Hell Diaries: Friday 8 June 1984
 
Had arranged to go to the seaside with Miss Millington [1]
 
She was supposed to come round at 9.30 this morning, but, perhaps not all that surprisingly, there was still no sign of her two hours later: not pleased. 
 
Went over to her place in the afternoon to find out what had gone wrong. She said she had no money to go anywhere. Which is fair enough and she did seem genuinely sorry. It was decided we'd go for a bus ride instead into the West Yorkshire countryside.
 
So, on to the 655 Leeds-Bradford bus, alighting near a village called Esholt, which, apparently, is where they film Emmerdale Farm
 
First thing Lorrie wanted to do was take a piss: which she proceeded to do in the middle of a field, laughing. We'd both brought cameras in order to take some pictures of the day, but, unfortunately, I didn't think to record this slightly pervy pastoral scene. 
 
Lots of sheep and cows to look at. And lots of chickens running around (not least of all because Lorrie found it fun to chase them). Bought ice-creams in a village shop, then found a nice spot to lie in the sun and canoodle. 
 
On the bus home Lorrie decided to stick a match up her nose to make herself sneeze; not something I've seen anyone do before. 
 
Back at Bedlam [2], we ate some chips and frolicked on the bed. After which, I walked Miss Millington home. If not quite a perfect day of the kind imagined by Lou Reed - no sangria in the park - it had still been a happy one and I was glad I'd spent it with her.  
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Lorrie Millington: artist, model, dancer, writer; see the post dated 18 April 2015 written in her memory: click here
 
[2] Bedlam was the name of the house in the Burley area of Leeds that I lived in with friends Kirk Field and August Finer. See the post dated 9 April 2019: click here
 
 
Musical bonus: Lou Reed, 'Perfect Day', from the album Transformer (RCA, 1972): click here.
 
 
For further memories of the summer of 1984, click here and/or here.   
 

11 Jul 2024

Johnny Rotten as an Abject Antihero (2)

Johnny Rotten as an Abject Antihero 
(SA/2024)
 
 
I. 
 
Following publication of a recent post on Johnny Rotten as an abject antihero, a young woman writes from France to accuse me of body shaming the former Sex Pistol: 
 
'If he wasn't larger-bodied than you and many others in our fatphobic society find acceptable, then I very much doubt you'd feel at liberty to ridicule Lydon and subject him to such unfair criticism.' 
 
Whilst I'd accept there's an element of truth in this, I think it misses the point of the post, which - as the opening reference to Julia Kristeva indicates - was essentially concerned with the state of abjection and what an abject individual may have to teach us, rather than with Rotten's weight per se (although his obesity obviously plays a role here). 
 
Perhaps I might offer a few further remarks in an attempt to clarify ... 
 
 
II. 
 
In critical theory, to be an abject individual is to exist outside of social expectations and moral standards in a manner that doesn't only challenge but unsettles conventional notions of identity. One isn't so much inhuman, as abhuman (i.e., not-quite-human and seemingly caught up in the process of becoming-monstrous). 
 
For Julia Kristeva, this can easily induce horror, particularly when one is confronted by an intrusion of corporeal reality into the symbolic order [1] - such as seeing Rotten on stage now whilst remembering him on stage back in the day. 
 
Being forced to face the abject truth is an inherently traumatic experience; like being asked to look at the decomposing corpse of a loved one. It's deeply disturbing and I understand how it can manifest in the desire not merely to look away, but do away with the abject subject. 
 
Learning how to accept others in their otherness - particularly when that otherness strikes us as repulsive - is to adopt what Roland Barthes describes as a politics of pure liberalism: I am a liberal in order not to be a killer [2]
 
 
III. 
 
The irony is that whereas in his punk period Lydon was merely pretending to be Rotten and a social outsider, he has now become truly abject. 
 
And yet, as I suggested at the close of the post we're referring to here, perhaps we should be grateful to him for this; for mightn't it be the case that Rotten, in his very abjectness, draws us unto him and not only grants us a perversely-morbid pleasure of some kind, but exemplifies a Christ-like level of passion by which we might all learn something important ...? 
 
I think so. 
 
And thus, I wasn't so much subjecting Rotten to 'unfair criticism', as my correspondent suggests, rather I was trying to find a way to view him in a positive light; recalling, for example, Jean Genet's insistence that it is only via a becoming-abject that the individual can achieve an existentialist form of sainthood (something that might appeal to the son of Irish Catholics who self-righteously believes himself to be the voice of Truth). 
 
 
IV. 
 
Ultimately, why Rotten does what he does now in the manner he chooses, is, I suppose, only something he can explain. 
 
Perhaps his speaking tour is not simply a commercial venture, but a method of public mourning; i.e., a form of catharsis via which he can express all his anger, sorrow, regret, etc. 
 
And perhaps his karaoke rendition of 'Anarchy in the UK', in which he invites the audience to clap and sing along as if they were the elderly residents of a care home, can be seen as a piece of abject performance art in which old ideals (such as artistic integrity) are devalued once and for all.
 
Or perhaps he's just become what he is (and what he formerly despised) ... 
 
 
Notes 
 
[1] See Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (Columbia University Press, 1982). 
 
[2] Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, trans. Richard Howard (Papermac, 1995), p. 117. My italics.
 
 

9 Jul 2024

Johnny Rotten as an Abject Antihero (1)

Johnny Rotten: Now and Then
 
"Since he has nothing, since he is nothing, he can sacrifice everything." - Julia Kristeva [1]
 
 
Watching YouTube footage of 68-year-old Johnny Rotten on his latest speaking tour of the UK is profoundly troubling for anyone who once loved him [2].
 
For he appears to have morphed into an abject end-of-pier entertainer wearing a Ukipper tie, retelling old stories and performing karoake versions of his own songs whilst looking - if we might borrow a line from yesteryear - like a big fat pink baked bean.     

A once charismatic and amusing individual is now literally revolting; transporting us to a place where integrity collapses and memories of the past are confronted with the gross reality of the present. 
 
But perhaps we should be grateful to him for this: for mightn't it be the case that Rotten, in his very abjectness, draws us unto him and teaches a vital lesson? Indeed, does he not even grant us a perversely-morbid pleasure of some kind; a violent and painful passion? 
 
Has Rotten not merely become fat, old, and boorish, but Christ-like?     


Notes

[1] Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 19. 

[2] Click here to watch Rotten encourage an audience to sing and clap along to 'Anarchy in the UK' on his I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right spoken word tour (2024). The video was recorded by Dror Nahum at Albert Halls, Stirling, on 14 June and uploaded to his YouTube channel the following day. 
 
 
For a post that might be said to anticipate this one on Rotten, written over ten years ago, click here
 
And for a follow up post to this one, click here
 
 

6 Jul 2024

Dark Enlightenment 4: On Rejecting Universalism

Nick Land (Gargoyle Philosopher)
Immanuel Kant (Architect of the Cathedral)
 
 
I. 
 
According to Nick Land [1], the dominant faith of the modern world is Universalism ...

Which is ironic, because if you examine the idea closely - historically - you'll discover that it's a very particular way of looking at the world that merely "asserts its own universal significance whilst ascending to a state of general dominance that approaches the universal".
 
In other words, Universalism - which determines the direction and meaning of modernity - is revealed "as the minutely determined branch or sub-species of a cultic tradition, descended from 'ranters', 'levelers', and closely related variants of dissident, ultra-protestant fanaticism". 
 
It owes very little to philosophers and their model of reason, which is why the Enlightenment can be understood more as a religious event than a philosophical one. 
 
Or, as Land notes, the world's ruling creed - radically democratic and egalitarian in character - is something that emerged amongst a specific people at a particular time and then spread "along identifiable historical and geographical pathways, with an epidemic virulence that is disguised as progressive global enlightenment". 
 
Land finds this all very amusing: "The unmasking of the modern 'liberal' intellectual [...] as a pale, fervent, narrowly doctrinaire puritan, recognizably descended from the species of witch-burning zealots, is reliably - and irresistibly - entertaining."
 
Not that he sees many others laughing; in fact, as the Cathedral extends and tightens its grip upon everyone everywhere, the response it triggers is often anything but humorous:
 
"More commonly, when unable to exact humble compliance, it encounters inarticulate rage, or at least uncomprehending, smoldering resentment, as befits the imposition of parochial cultural dogmas, still wrapped in the trappings of a specific, alien pedigree, even as they earnestly confess to universal rationality."
 
The Muslim world, for example, doesn't often stop to appreciate the irony of the situation. For them, Universalism is Western imperialism and they don't like it; they don't find the truths being foistered on them to be as self-evident as we do. "How could anybody who was not already a believer be expected to consent to such assumptions?", asks Land.  
 
Of course, those sophisticated globalists of the Cathedral are embarrassed when obliged to admit that their progressive political agenda has a religious origin; they pride themselves on their secularism and desperately seek to direct attention away from "the ethnically specific, dogmatic creedal content at its core".
 
As Land writes in a brilliant line: "Paleo-puritanism must be derided in order for neo-puritanism to flourish ..." [2]
 
 
II.
 
Obviously, I'm sympathetic to Land's neo-reactionary nominalism directed against the Cathedral and its project of Universal Enlightenment. In a sense, that's what the phrase torpedo the ark might be understood to mean; i.e., a rejection of the ideal fantasy that the entire human race might be caught up in single becoming: One World, One People, One Law.   
 
I instinctively hate this line of thinking and always have. 
 
One of the reasons that the notion of a dark enlightenment attracts is because it rejects the myth of progress (or the internal teleology) at work in the philosophy of those such as Kant and Hegel and opposes any attempt to centralise into oneness, encouraging rather what D. H. Lawrence would describe as "a vivid recoil into separateness" [3].
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Nick Land, the Dark Enlightenment (Imperium Books 2022). The essay, written in 2012, is also available online: click here. Note that I am quoting from the fourth and final part of this online version.
 
[2] Similarly, as Land goes on to note, neofascists of the New World Order can't be vocal enough in condemning white nationalism and other forms of what they call 'far-right extremism': 
      "Just as the ratchet progress of neo-puritan social democracy is radically facilitated by the orchestrated pillorying of its embryonic religious forms, so is its trend to consistently neo-fascist political economy smoothed by the concerted repudiation of a 'neo-nazi' (or paleo-fascist) threat. It is extremely convenient, when constructing ever more nakedly corporatist or 'third position' structures of state-directed pseudo-capitalism, to be able to divert attention to angry expressions of white racial paranoia ..."

[3] D. H. Lawrence, ‘Future States’, in The Poems, ed. Cristopher Pollnitz (Cambridge University Press, 2013), p. 526.


Dark Enlightenment 1: On the Politics of Hate (4 July 2024): click here
 
Dark Enlightenment 2: On Exiting the Present (5 July 2024): click here
 
Dark Enlightenment 3: On the Zombie Apocalypse (5 July 2024): click here. 


5 Jul 2024

Dark Enlightenment 3: On the Zombie Apocalypse

 
'Democracy is as close to a precise negation of civilization 
as anything could be, short of instantaneous social collapse into 
murderous barbarism or zombie apocalypse (which it eventually leads to).'
 
 
I. 
 
According to Nick Land [1], it's not only popular culture that ends up eating itself, but democracy too becomes self-devouring in what he refers to as the zombie apocalypse, which is why, as we saw in an earlier post, those who can are already searching for an exit and regard flight as a matter of imperative.
 
But what, exactly, does Land mean by this phrase; one that derives from a subgenre of horror fiction in which an overwhelming plague of undead zombies results in the total breakdown of society and leaves just a small group of individuals who have been unable to flee struggling to survive. 
 
That's what we are going to discuss here ...
 
 
II. 
 
If the idea of a zombie apocalypse entered the popular imagination thanks to George A. Romero's 1968 classic movie Night of the Living Dead, it's Land who places the idea within a neoreactionary political context [2] - although, it's true of course, that many other artists and theorists have used the phrase to metaphorically express various cultural anxieties and social tensions.   
 
Land - who, as a philosopher, is kind of a cross between Thomas Hobbes, Georges Bataille, and H. P. Lovecraft - conceives the dynamics of democratisation as fundamentally degenerative; "systematically consolidating and exacerbating private vices, resentments, and deficiencies until they reach the level of collective criminality and comprehensive social corruption". 

Bound together by a circuit of reciprocal incitement, democratic governments and the people who elect them push one another further and further towards "ever more shameless extremities" including cannibalism. Idealists call this progress; neoreactionaries, however, see only voraciousness and fear that the authorities will ultimately be unable to "spare civilization from frenzied, ruinous, gluttonous debauch" - i.e., the zombie apocalypse. 
 
As the democratic virus works its way through society, says Land, then concern with the past and long-term planning into the future both die away and are replaced by "a sterile, orgiastic consumerism, financial incontinence, and a 'reality television' political circus". As we are trapped in a perpetual present at the end of history, it makes perfect sense to "eat it all now". 

 
III.
 
Finally, to help readers understand how we got where we are today, i.e., stuck in an age of relentless state expansion, spurious human rights, and mind control ensuring defence of a universalistic dogma, Land provides a convenient guide to the main sequence of modern political regimes, that I think it worth reproducing here [3]:
 
 
Regime 1: Communist Tyranny 
Typical Growth: -0% 
Voice / Exit: Low / Low 
Cultural climate: Pyschotic utopianism 
Life is … hard but ‘fair’ 
Transition mechanism: Re-discovers markets at economic degree-zero 
 
Regime 2: Authoritarian Capitalism 
Typical Growth: 5-10% 
Voice / Exit: Low / High 
Cultural climate: Flinty realism 
Life is … hard but productive 
Transition mechanism: Pressurized by the Cathedral to democratize 
 
Regime 3: Social Democracy 
Typical Growth: 0-3% 
Voice / Exit: High / High 
Cultural climate: Sanctimonious dishonesty 
Life is … soft and unsustainable 
Transition mechanism: Can-kicking runs out of road 
 
Regime 4: Zombie Apocalypse 
Typical Growth: N/A 
Voice / Exit: High (mostly useless screaming) / High (with fuel, ammo, dried food, precious metal coins) 
Cultural climate: Survivalism 
Life is … hard-to-impossible 
Transition mechanism: Unknown 
 
 
IV.
 
The question, I suppose, is: How seriously should we take Land's thoughts on these matters? 
 
Well, when I first encouraged readers of Torpedo the Ark to accept the challenge of his writings on dark enlightenment back in October 2015 - click here - I have to admit that I didn't take them as seriously as I do now. 
 
The world has changed dramatically in the last decade, however, and changed in a manner which, it seems to me, only lends credence to Land's analysis. One worries more now about the fate of the West than one worried ten years ago  and it seems to me that offensive strategies are required urgently if we are to avoid a zombie apocalypse (that defensive strategies, such as quarantine, just won't do the trick).
 
Although, if I'm honest, I suspect it's already too late and the election of Keir Starmer's Labour government with a huge majority here in the UK hardly fills me with hope for the future ...

 
Notes
 
[1] See Nick Land, The Dark Enlightenment (Imperium Books, 2022). The essay, written in 2012, is also available online: click here. Note that I am quoting from the first and third parts of this online version.
 
[2] Having said that, one might recall the 1940 film The Ghost Breakers (dir. George Marshall, 1940), starring Bob Hope as Larry Lawrence who delivers a hilarious line concerning zombies and democrats: click here
 
[3] Note that by Voice / Exit Land refers to freedom of speech contra the far more substantial autonomy of the sovereign individual (i.e., the freedom to act without state interference and the freedom to leave when state interference in and control over one's life becomes intolerable). And note also that for all regimes, growth expectations assume moderately competent population.
 
 
Dark Enlightenment 1: On the Politics of Hate (4 July 2024): click here.  
 
Dark Enlightenment 2: On Exiting the Present (5 July 2024): click here
 
Dark Enlightenment 4: On Rejecting Universalism (6 July 2024): click here.