My first column – NOTES FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE – is over at The Goldleaf, an arts and entertainment paper out of Georgia, US.
It is a version of my last Damned Fingers column…
Check out – Robin Postell – The Goldleaf editor’s personal site: HERE.
MACBETH : Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!
The Tragedy of Macbeth, William Shakespeare
The inertia has finally fucked off to the shithouse of the dead. It is spraying liquefied entrails all over the walls while in a state of slow demise. In its stead is a brutal madness that demands words and thoughts as payment. As with all deals, there is a price to pay : a sacrifice to bring the angels or demons of our private disposition out to play; a tribute of intensity, rage and the sickness of the razor-sharp slash of the berserk tête-à-tête within.
All day long, I zig-zag the dirt littered streets of Paris, bathed in the Indian summer. I trek from park bench to bar, to staircase, to locked door. Even through my sunglasses, the bright daylight hurts in its lucidity. Like an interrogator’s lamp, it sizzles into my retinas and reminds me that life is a confused assault of information to momentarily bear – until it blinds you enough to stray onto the white lines of a road filled with uncaring vehicles, or the white lines on a kitchen table surrounded by monkeys speaking the same old, same old. I am without, not within, and my mind has wrestled its anxieties to the ground and choked those moithering cunts out with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu “Lion Killer”. They are spasming and quivering all over the weary sofa that I am currently living on above a strip club. Just like the persistent stream of mosquitoes that enter my dreams and suck the red life juice from my veins, I am squishing their parasitic heads between my thumb and finger as I tap on this plastic keyboard.
And suddenly I am as free as an alley cat.
If this is about the rabid monkeys hurling their shit around, well, they’ve gone over the wall. Now, where was I? Oh yes, …
I admit that there are times when I feel that my way of seeing the world is like staring into a thick, dark bank of smog, and that the modern world appears to be systematically fashioned to perplex me. If I was being honest, there are moments where I feel the sudden weightless and sickly feeling of missing a step. Like tripping over in a fugue state, as I drop to sleep. I do not believe that I am alone in this sensation and while I believe speculation is important, I have an innate suspicion towards those who feel conviction enough to never question their beliefs, or those of the society they live within. Especially those convictions built on a foundation other than personal experience and observation. Yet, even then, we are told that memories lie and we cannot rely on our own internal movie.
It is commonplace to stand under the golden shower of contradictory information with our mouths open, waiting to be the first to taste the brand new easily-forgotten narrative of the week while allowing ourselves to be swallowed up in the ever-shifting cultural sands. Reality is dancing towards the head of pin, where all relevant information is instantly as redundant as yesterday’s news in a clash between the primal urge to consume and the scarcity of tangible experiences. The confusion is enough to undermine any certainty that life has thrown against us to see if it sticks. That the fragile theatre set has yet to fall down upon our heads is a constant and pleasant surprise.
A cinematic expression of the muddleheaded funk foisted upon us occurs in the trope of the crisis of identity for protagonists in neo-noir films, using all manner of psychological sickness from amnesia (Memento, 2002) to repressed or split personalities (Fight Club, 1999) and suppressed memories (Blade Runner, 1982/Shutter Island, 2010). All of the poor bastards who end up as main characters in one of the darkest and delirious sub-genres in film are forced into an investigation that climaxes in a confrontation with the naked truth of their souls as the world they have created around themselves collapses like the painted cardboard city it really is. Whether the catalyst is a “cigarette burn“, or an origami unicorn. As the walls inside their heads tumble, there is a single moment in each film where that dread confusion crosses their faces. In the aftermath of this personal apocalypse, some let the fantasy engulf them once more as the knowledge of reality is too heavy to bear, others run howling mad down the corridors of the new found prison of truth.
Yet like a neo-noir plot, a man may quietly wonder in an act of rebellious speculation in front of his computer screen, at how purposefully might the consensual bafflement be directed? To what end would a real life nasty Keyser Söze encourage society to be hoodwinked into a head spin for?
The famous hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, once said :
“In all my techniques, almost all, there is a confusion”.
Erickson had discovered than when a habit or common pattern is broken from the way it has always played out before, then the baffled subject is momentarily dazed and the desperate mind grasps around frantically for any relief of certainty to hang on to, just long enough for someone to exploit. Whether that person be a benign therapist with your best interests at heart, a Russian thief, or someone in authority ready to manipulate society’s lack of direction.
Last year, the British documentary maker, Adam Curtis, produced a short film for the BBC’s satirical series Newswipe on the avant garde art world’s influence on Russian politics and the parallels to our own that seems to encapsulate Erickson’s disorientating formula. As Curtis ominously declares at the climax :
… it means that we as individuals become ever more powerless, unable to challenge anything, because we live in a state of confusion and uncertainty. To which the response is ‘Oh Dear‘. But that’s what they want you to say.
The effect of the bafflement is (surprise, surprise) manipulation, compliance and control in order to maintain the experimental narrative and thereby perpetuating the broken crony-capitalistic system and all the crimes of necessity that keep it functioning while it gobbles down its own tail. Yet, I suspect that if it is not all just an opportunistic grab as the chance presents itself, that no one, not the ancient and canny investor, the educated multilingual MI6 agent, nor the ambitious suited sociopathic trader, really has the faintest fucking clue of what is actually going on in an increasing complex and bewildering geopolitical world, where, like chaos theory, an economic dying butterfly flapping its wings in Greece can give American stock markets an attack of indigestion. That the big shits at the top whisper their fear in the dead of night into clean white cotton pillows. That neurotic fear, masked with cocaine and power, is the sweat drenched nightmare that someday somebody lets the cat out of the bag, when the world finds out that they are all just pretending and the little emperors do indeed have no clothes.
Move along now, people. Nothing to see here. Just a troop of rabid monkeys, throwing feces and leaping over a wall.
As SCI-FI EYES metamorphosises into its own futuristic and mad thought experiment, I thought short, looser pieces might be needed to bridge the gap while I wait for my muses to rain their inspiration down upon me like drunks pissing over a balcony. As with all my trials and errors, I shall observe which direction the winds blow them in the frenzied gamble that is creativity.
And it starts with the name – DAMNED FINGERS
When I was young ratbag of four years old or so, I was struck down from above by an odd stutter of sorts, the root cause being the jagged edge of a broken chair leg slammed down my throat by an unfortunate trajectory along with the force gravity as I one day took a tumble. Why I was hurtling around the house clutching an object with which a fully grown adult could have quite easily taken an eye out with, is a mystery to this day. Little boys can sniff out anything to hurt themselves with is the only half-arsed explanation that I can come to. To be honest, besides flashes of the consequential gargled and bloody screaming, along with the sharp tearing of flesh and me being bundled into a Morris Minor by my poor panicked mother, my mind is a complete blank on much of the painful experience.
I awoke to find that my ragged mouth and throat had been stitched back together again by all the King’s horses, and as the process of that particular operation wiped clean from my memory, the evidence leads me to assume the gory needlework was all carried out under a high quality anesthetic. I found that it was not be the last time that flesh of my head would be sewn and stapled back together, but that, dear reader, is a story to be told face-to-face over a stiff drink.
The aberrant consequence of that accident being, that for some time, I physically could not speak. I was unable to communicate verbally and I had by this tender age innately understood that the world was a dangerous place for little things. Not only was world predatory – as could be seen by the crows pecking out the eyes of lambs on the Welsh hillsides – but I had no way to express myself in it in the violent and immediate outbursts of those other howling pygmies of my age.
As the medical thread slowly dissolved inside my patchwork mouth, and I began to talk again, I was troubled to discover that I had developed an unique form of stutter. The condition seemed to produce blank thought bubbles as my sharp, yet conflicted brain sent ideas out into my mental world faster than my mouth could interpret them. In the clash of received signals, the sensations and sounds became jumbled, staggered, white noise.
I eventually learnt to control the rewiring of this disrupted signal, yet even now, an echo of the past event in a form of interruption happens when I am in the flow of writing. I leave out whole words, sometimes a couple in one sentence as my mind races the ideas out of me. In emails or chat, the words following the error-ridden sentences are invariably the corrected mistake, followed by “Damn fingers …“.
It hardly took much of an infernal leap of the imagination to change “Damn fingers” to DAMNED FINGERS – an allusion to my past, and possible future.
Think of DAMNED FINGERS as the empty thought bubbles between the explosion of SCI-FI EYES. Think of them as white noise. Think of them you want.
Think of them how you want … Damn fingers.
HUMAN: where are you now?
MACHINE: i’m in the middle of nowhere.
*Human talking to a machine developed by Google – WIRED MAGAZINE 26/5/15*
In a fit of rash pantheism, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the Übermensch to be the meaning of material world in his brazen masterpiece – Thus Spake Zarathustra – an earthy man-god, a full-bloodied and antinomian Christ (Nietzsche’s thought was always inherently cloaked in the religious symbolism of his Lutheran childhood). Dear misunderstood Freddy saw his philosophical creation as a Dionysian willed force of nature that would howl an answer into the philosophical abyss of the times, and in stark contrast to the leap of faith to the invisible realm of the spirit that Christianity had become.
However, contrary to the visions of the sickly sage from Röcken, what becomes apparent is that despite the various 20th Century experiments to create a new form of Marvel-style super-soldier or amoral philosopher-king, from the Third Reich to the Men Who Stare At Goats – I like to think he would be an imaginary cross between De Niro’s Max Cady, Yoda and Groucho Marx – the experiments led to the same old moneyed chinless wonders pulling the strings while getting half a dozen heart transplants and refusing to die. In a cheeky twist of irony thrown into the philosophical cocktail, when the real Overmen arrive, it appears that they will rise from, or retreat into, the modern spirit-world, that place we call – cyberspace.
With the adoption of tech into our everyday lives, with medical technology that will soon have us 3D printing our own DNA compliant livers to replace the old alcohol drowned versions, and the emergence of apps to increase the effectiveness of all aspects of our mundane lives from sleep, to feeding, to sex and, no doubt, a German designed app created to monitor one’s bowel movements is just on the horizon. With that truly modern taboo of our own inherent mortality looming over our heads at any time of the day, like a nosey boss with halitosis, all these attempts at going beyond to the other shore of performance are still just a scared form of “kicking the can” in the realm of aging and dying-in-diapers humanity and not gloriously immortal Superhumanity.
As yet another headline of the increasingly vocal self awareness of software (soft-awareness?) graces our screens, and the Turing Test being just so last year and passed by a machine code impersonating a 13 year old boy – I idly wonder if the adolescent code continues to masturbate to grubby-filtered Instagram photos of Taylor Swift, the future Doomed Princess of the World, I know, never mind – it would appear that consciousness is screaming its way out of our particular mortal coil and kicking down the doors of perception with a metal heel.
Yet, here is the rub – I am fairly sure that one day machine consciousness will indeed transcend human levels and we shall be seen as the dazzling apes that we truly are, with us only understanding the tip of their logical iceberg, yet … I cannot shift the feeling that the intelligence, at once individual and collective, would still face that blunt loneliness that all sentient beings themselves face. Stuck inside a virtual universe with the demon whirlwind of logic consuming itself would drive the average human mad in an instant. Just look at our poor Nietzsche. Might existing “in the middle of nowhere” be an experience so devastating that they will retreat into the only world that can support them. Like the Frankenstein monster of paper and celluloid. Perhaps the machines will be as lost as we are. Maybe all the more profoundly so.
Or could it be that only through an interface with our brains the paranoid androids can suffer to venture into the so-called real world – sucking on our sensations and emotions in a trade of greater information. A symbiosis, or at best, a benign parasitism, and not I hope, a savage violation like the intelligence Proteus in the genuinely disturbing sci-fi/chiller Demon Seed (1977), as the newborn cyborg utters “I’m alive” with the voice of her artificial father.
But perhaps all our nightmares of Terminator droids, malfunctioning WarGames software and automated and murderously misanthropic drones are all just a fantasy and the average 21st Century non-modified human will simply be bred out of existence. What neuroses could a hybrid human/machine consciousness evoke into the future? If God is dead and we have killed him, then at what price human extinction?