Wilder Gonzales Agreda & R.U. Sirius
In 2015, Wilder Gonzales Agreda interviewed me for http://peruavantgarde.blogspot.com. I’m fond enough of the results to present some of the musings here with some updated annotations. Annotations in caps and blue
Why do you think people in general (not elite) tend to avoid changes even if they finally are going to benefit everyone? Why is to so hard to change mentalities? They seem to get frightened always.
Our minds are SEEM TO BE geared, evolutionarily, towards the recognition of patterns and its predictive mechanisms are most naturally geared towards the immediate near situation… hunting food, avoiding things that might harm you immediately, maybe some gathering, getting shelter and so forth. It’s kind of amazing that we even got to consciously planned agriculture. Now we’re in societies and cultures of astounding complexity, but many of us are still geared towards our immediate comforts and securities. The simplest – or simple-mindedest way to attain those things is to go along with what everyone else is doing and find your place within it. You get a kind of security of the hive, the pack, the tribe. That security is challenged situationally from time to time but the pack basically likes to shoot the messenger. In apocalyptic situations, this tendency may only get worse.
Academics use to say that in current postmodernism people lose faith on ideals, and they live just for the moment, the ego and pleasure. How do you see this situation regarding counterculture ideals and utopias? Or you see we are living a new era?
I’ve never really thought about postmodernism in terms of faith, but I’m sure it would point to and also provoke a lack of it. And I don’t know that postmodernism is particularly a critique of hedonism or spontaneity IF THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE IMPLYING
Academic postmodernism, which has become TO A GENERALIST APPEARS mostly indistinguishable from poststructuralism, culture theory, critical theory, what have you… really, seems to be a dense thicket of illuminating perceptions, fecund horseshit and lots of tangled up nonsense. This is because academics have to produce a lot of words, and because academic postmodernism came out of the demise of the radical left of the 1960s and it’s splintering into oppressed identity formations. Academic pomo — from it’s roots in questioning the highly defined enlightenment paradigm of Western capitalism and it’s Leninist cousin — seems to have constructed some kind of a linguistic/memetic umbrella under which these various strains of obsession with gender, race and colonialism could still be interrelated. Unfortunately, these relations are constructed DESCRIBED through a peculiar elite specialized language that’s only accessible to other members of the academic tribe. Students get infected by it but usually drop it once they start dealing with the actuality of the world and their not-politically-correct sexual desires. IT SEEMS NOW TO BE CONTINUOUSLY UBIQUITOUS IN CERTAIN CIRCLES, ALBEIT IN A SIMPLE FORM OF TOTALISMS AND CERTAINTIES, SOME OF THEM MORE OR LESS ON TARGET. PROBABLY A REACTION TO THE REACTION AND SOMETHING TO DO WITH SOME KIND OF STASIS (ECONOMIC?) PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING POST-COLLEGE THAT KEEPS THEM IN THE SAME CONTEXT
If I could pick out two fundamental ideas from postmodernism that have meaning and appeal for me:
One: it would be the idea that the singular romanticized consistent western classical liberal individual is a limiting construct and not an actual thing. There are no “stand up guys.” Humans are a fluid changeable process and there are multiplicities of selves, particularly amongst people not enslaved by lives of full time labor –- who generally are the only ones that are privileged to have a self or a multiplicity of selves in the first place.
Two: The other appealing aspect of PoMo is the idea that truth is radically contingent. UNFORTUNATELY PICKED UP BY VARIOUS RIGHT WING THINKERS AS A WAY TO SEW CONFUSION IN DOMAINS WHERE FACTS — EVEN APPROXIMATE FACTS — MATTER TO MUCH TO TREAT AS CONTINGENT. That would not necessarily be hard physical truth (if I threatened an academic pomo with a baseball bat, he or she would recognize it’s absoluteness) but philosophical truth, political truth and even scientific truth (the latter is too long an explantion for this discussion). And with the possible exception of scientific proofs, this seems to be palpably (contingently) true. That is sort of the way things are, whether we like it or not.
This sort of postmodern thinking has some liberatory qualities for an individual. He or she is invited to see attempts by religion or social consensus or authority to force hard truths upon her as contingent i.e. situational at best and, more likely, total nonsense. This can lead to a kind of libertinism, as suggested in your question. Mondo 2000 had kind of a libertine feel actually. Maybe even more so in real life.
On the other hand, it is probably not that good for making revolution or reform. It’s ultimately obscurantist. That’s probably, in fact, the unconscious intention of pomo academics. They want to sound extreme but keep their sinecures. Well, don’t we all, on some level?
How do you see countercultural ideals and moves against a concrete reality like Club Bilderberg where “owners of the world” plans the way they will continue dominating with new weapons.
Occupy, which is probably the loudest opposition to the so-called owners of the world, was decidedly classically countercultural in its inception, coming, as it did, TO A DEGREE, out of Adbusters with their love of situationism etcetera. But at the end of the BOOK Countercultures COUNTERCULTURE THROUGH THE AGES BY R.U. SIRIUS & DAN JOY book, I question whether counterculture is really even counter any more, since it’s hard to locate a consensus reality that large numbers of people agree on largely because the all-inclusive participation of everybody in media dissipates and decentralizes attention.
I think Occupy’s counterculturalness probably got in the way, ultimately. When it came out in a poll that the majority agreed with them, they had a new responsibility. Instead of just modeling a groovy society within a protesting context, with liberty and consensus for all… they, and we, became responsible for actually moving towards delivering on the promise of a fairer shake from financialized capitalism – or its defeat — for the vast majority. And there wasn’t any strategy for that. (I’m not sure if there is one.) But it certainly put the issues on the map, so in that sense, maybe counterculturalness, to the extent it still exists, is a useful catalyst.
There is a difficult dichotomy, in that you need large-scale solidarity to challenge the hegemony of neoliberalism. You don’t want to go all Leninist but you want the kinds of actions and behaviors and strategies that involve maybe 33% of that much-vaunted 99%. And I see that a lot of what passes for radicalism, particularly radicalism with a counterculture vibe, really involves people trying to feel more righteous than those other assholes who “don’t get it” — the normals, the sheeple, the sell outs, what have you.
People don’t think — or don’t think clearly — about whether their actions will actually achieve their stated goals. Fundamentally, they want to get their rocks off. I’m all for it, but it’s not really politics.That probably didn’t answer your question, but it was a riff I wanted to get out of my system.
Do you really think ego can be removed from human beings?
Well, they can be killed!
image by Chad Essley
Seriously though, I think in practices like Zen and Taoism and even in some cases with psychedelics, you get to tap into a different reward system. Our brains seem to have an in-built reward system for biological success – making it – and for community acceptance. But there also seems to be an in-built reward system for detaching from the stresses of competition or social acceptance, for quieting the mind and being conscious of one’s presence in the moment. Given what we think we know about neurology and the brain as a predictive machine, it’s an astounding invention of the Chinese … this idea of actually intentionally experiencing the present moment. Be here now. I don’t belittle it. But it’s not total ego loss. Never thought it was. That would be silly.
When you write your columns for mainstream media (Time for example) have you been condemned sometime, you have to moderate your speech? Do they send letters/emails to the mag about your texts?
Nah. Nobody gives a fuck. :—)
Full interview here Thanks to Wilder Gonzales Agreda for permission.