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Madame Einzige: A Thematic Outline (Part 1/2)

Introduction — “Ex Nihilo”: Origins in European Nihilism — The Banality of Evil — Germany: Unified, Conquered, Divided, Occupied — Germany: The Legacy of the Statist Frankenstein —

(Written by Ismael Sarepta)

Madame Einzige is an upcoming philosophical epic Cypherpunk novel series, drawing from the author’s intense research of political science, technology, computing, philosophy, psychology — in which historical pattern is combined with speculative imagination, into a prophetic synthesis.

It is a novel series, where religious theocracies weave technologies of virtual-reality, cyberspace, and mass surveillance into State-wide system of totalitarianism, in order to magnify the holy and majestic feelings with God and Clergy;

Where disenfranchised, disillusioned, cyber-prosthetic U.S. veterans violently take up arms against a government that failed to re-integrate them into society, and failed to uphold the American values they risked their lives for;

Where socially neglected computer nerds and failed upstarts realize themselves as the medium through which democracy may defend itself — through hacktivism, and going beyond mere website vandalism to do it and discover the political empowerment of the personal computer.

[Caption: Disenfranchised young U.S. Veterans throwing away their medals during protest. Historically, discharged war veterans that have failed to be re-integrated into society have been the first to organize revolts against the State. Will the same happen to the United States in the 21st century?]It is a novel series where occult-obsessed mathematicians and computer scientists crunch combinatorial sets and sacred permutations in order to develop algorithms for self-aware, disembodied Artificial Intelligences that instantly prophecize the future from petabytes of mined Informatics data;

Where war vets and megalomaniacs form Private Military Companies, offering their services to dictators and warlords, and are paid in land, market-monopolies, drugs, and an exploitable labor force;

Where certain corporations, under the guise of faux-humanitarianism and anti-piracy (and knowing that most piracy actually takes place outside of Western nations), attempt to replace the personal computer in developing countries, by selling mass, nationwide Cloud-computing, Mainframe-like networks to these countries, enabling their governments to data-mine the Cloud for anyone deemed a dissident, criminal, revolutionary, or spy–

[Caption: Topological Map of the “Backbone” of the Internet (click to enlarge, PDF) — how much is humanity’s presence on the Web an accurate portrayal of us? How much does your online presence accurately portray you? Can the sum of humanity’s recorded interactions with a computer really be used to predict our future?] 

Madame Einzige is epic storytelling in which reality and art, analysis and imagination, science and mythopoesis, narration and reporting, blend seamlessly together for the Zeitgeist of the Third Millennium.

Art imitates life: life imitates art.

“Ex Nihilo”: Origins in European Nihilism

The origins of our protagonist, our Cypherpunk (anti-)heroine take us to the very beginnings of this postmodern era of Pax Americanaour era, following the Second World War, defined by the political and cultural ascendancy of the United States, and prevalence of what we have come loosely to understand as “free market capitalism” and “democracy”. The origins of our Cyberpunk protagonist take us to the Climax of Europe’s collective paranoid angst — that is, the Two World Wars — that angst that unwitting drove Europe’s hegemonic, imperial, nationalistic, war-hawk path to self-destruction.

[Read more]

huesoflife asked you:
Hi I happened upon your tumblr because you liked one of my posts. Your posts are very intellectually stimulating so that makes me wonder, what are some of your favorite books? Also, I noticed that you have a myriad of interests, what major did you pursue in college, if you don’t mind me asking?

Why thank you!

I apologize if this post is a little long, but do hope it will be interesting. Probably best to read it in small bites.

As you may have guessed, since I do have a very wide range of interests, it’s quite a task for me to pick out my favorite books! I do read a lot of books, but I also learn by watching lectures, documentaries, listening to audiobooks, talking to people, and even just taking what I’ve learned and applying it to experiences. I also read academic papers, encyclopedias (not just Wikipedia), or sometimes I’ll just read a chapter from a book. I think how I’ll reply to your question is that I’ll mention at subjects and bodies of work in general. Here goes—

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, especially Beyond Good and Evil, his essay called On Truth and Lies in a Non-moral Sense, and a book called The Gay Science (sometimes translated as The Joyful Wisdom). Unlike many philosophers, Nietzsche’s writings are very accessible for anyone with a pretty good command of whatever language they’re reading him in.

Among many things, Nietzsche’s work centers around highlighting the inherent dissonance between human consciousdesires, reason, and our spontaneous organic nature (actually, for Nietzsche, reason is intimately bound up in being afunction of our organic-nature selves. Same goes with our conscious desires.) Put in modern Cognitive Science/Psychology terms, he’s pointing out the dissonance and the unity of humanexecutive functions, instinct, personality characteristics, habituation, and the subconscious, but also the unity that this internal conflict leads to.

These were revolutionary ideas for the 19th century, hugely influential on Freud and the foundation of modern psychology, and still remains a prominent force in modern philosophy, psychology, sociology and anthropology. However, I don’t believe Nietzsche’s critique has been fully appreciated or realized by the public at large, or by science.

As well, I do like Nietzsche’s breaking downexceptionalism and the sorts of myths we tell ourselves in order to conceive of such exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is the belief that a particular group is superior because this group is totally separate from underlying patterns and conditions that affect all things — it either wasn’t effect by them, or overcame them wholly. He does a lot of critiquing ofGerman exceptionalism (he was German himself, and German nationalism was starting to pick up as a prominent political force when he was writing in the late 19th century [Germany didn’t become a unified nation until 1871]), Western Christian exceptionalism(especially Protestantism), European exceptionalism and Europe’s imperial heritage, and I think most importantly, Human exceptionalism, and our tendency to try to separate us from Nature and animals.

Yet, another major theme in Nietzsche is the universal nature and diversity of humanity, and the universal nature ofconditions and patterns that make up all organisms, including humans.

His concept of “Philosophical Genealogy” (this warrants a future essay to get into!) is also a major influence on my approach to human history, politics, and even to some extent my approach to what’s cutely being called “Big History”.

Big History is a vast interdisciplinary approach to history that looks over mass time scales of the past 14.5 billion years of the universe. It studies the evolution of physical forces, the elements and substances, the origin of life, biological systems and the biosphere, and in particular how all of this has formed human origins and history. David Christian is the main figure in this discipline — and while I’m not 100% in agreement with all of his work, I do strongly recommend his work, and I think his approach to history is just awesome.

The Critique of Pure Reason (Kritik der reinen Vernunft) by Immanual Kant. This book is a dense read. It was written in the late 18th century, and it’s a critique of the philosophical-scientific traditional as it was known at the time. The main thesis of the book is pointing out that  reason, judgement, sensation, and the sorts of insight we can gather from experimentation and speculation, are entirely dependent on us as a spontaneously organized orgasm. Reason does not exist in a void — reason is conditioned by the limitations of our experience and the mind. There’s a tendency in many of us intellectual inclined to naively value this “pure reason” and totally ignore the spontaneous, non-rational conditions that make all of our experiences possible (including what we can and cannot think about) in the first place.

Of course, the Critique goes much deeper than this. It immensely influenced Albert Einstein, many scientists from the 19th century, and many Quantum scientists of the 20th. It was probably a reading inspired by Kant that got Einstein to seriously think about the nature of the Observer, and how the Observer influences the very experiment he is trying to conduct by just observing it. (Probably also some Hegel in there, and Ernst Mach.)

Unfortunately,  Kant’s work is neglected by scientists these days — which I don’t blame them for, because “professional philosophy” practiced in the academia is becoming a very, very, very pedantic and pretentious subject, filled with useless dogmatic schisms over hair-splitting trifles. There’s also a lot of hyper-specialization going on in the academia, which prevents these multi-disciplinary insights. (See my essay on this subject [link].)

But I do think Kant has some very valuable insight into modern scientific practices and investigations. For instance, we see how much emphasis is placed in science nowadays onsimulation, data-mining, and certain paradigms that neglect the influence of the observer; or how there is a tendency in science to assume a one-to-one congruency of human conception about an observable phenomenon, and with what’s actually happening. We humans — as thinking, sensing beings — are intimately part of the very experiments that we conduct, and the very patterns we try to investigate.

A reading of Kant can give us valuable insight into this… But if you’re not already into philosophy, it’s a *very* time consuming process to go back and read Kant. I don’t recommend it. You’d have to read who he’s reacting to, reinterpret him in his historical context, and view him in the light of recent developments in science and math if you want him to be a gainful read, etc etc. Basically, we need a new commentator to step up and have another look at Kant for 21st century science and math. Maybe that’ll be me in a few years 😉

Writings of Stephen Jay Gould. He does a lot of work on Evolution, especially breaking down myths about evolution (mths both by Creationists, and people who accept evolution). He does a lot to smash this notion of teleology in evolution (the view that things evolve for a purpose), and a lot of valuable insight into human nature, underlying patterns in biology, etc. He’s also a very accessible and fun read — I highly recommend all of his books!

Favorite historians are Oswald Spengler and Ibn Khaldun — not that I think they were entirely right about everything they wrote (hardly!), but their approach to history is revolutionary. They focused on the collective, aggregateresults of human nature, especially human historical and sociological behavior, as something that can be understood in a greater World-System. There is also an understanding of human civilization, or particular kinds of civilizations, as a kind of organism.

As far as literature goes, hmm. Ludimagister has reminded me how much I love Goethe. The Romantics of the early 19th century — I love their seamless mixing of philosophy, mysticism, and science. William Blake, Percy & Mary Shelley,Schiller… Many 19th century poets actually drew a lot from the scientific tradition, like Robert Frost who actually wrote quite a bit about entropy and heat-death (which arrogant English majors don’t even realize!)

Also am quite fond of political writers like Joseph Conrad,George Orwell.  Russian literature, especially Dostoyevsky, Nabokov, Turgenev, Gogol.

Very fond of cyberpunk, certain science-fiction, historical fiction. And I read a lot of old religious texts and mythology.

Second part of your question:

In university, I majored specifically in Archaeology and Philosophy. (Double-major was required at the particular institution)

But I’ve been self-taught in many subjects since a very early age. As a small child, I used to spend hours at a time watch Discover Channel and TLC (back when it was aboutactually learning) on evolution, astronomy, psychology. My parents weren’t into such things, but they were into politics, so I had an early age exposure to political arguments at the dinner table. Slowly, that turned into an interest into philosophy and politics, then into history, I’ve stuck with it since.

Not to discourage others who, but at least in my particular case, university was the least productive learning experience in my entire life.

Update:

Btw, I absolutely love your art. Phenomenal astronomy work, wow, completely awe-inspiring. I highly recommend everyone to check it out! [Link to gallery]

Madame Σinzige

Madame Einzige

Madame Einzige (Image by imorawetz )

We live in an age of illusionary freedom — where choice is reduced to the brand name; where the Corporation has taken the place of the Feudal Lord; where the wage has replaced indentured servitude in nothing but name.

The fate of Technology — the greatest capacity for individual empowerment, or for collective enslavement — perpetually redefines itself between these two extremities. This Age of Information still is yet to prove itself: is this an age of grassroots emancipation, or one big experiment in mass surveillance and control? It will be us, through both our action and inaction, on who this historical experiment takes place; it will be us who are the ones that will be doing the proving.

[…]

The State is the strongest it has ever been in human history — yet, also the subtlest. Its reach has conquered the entire world: every territory, every society, every venture, every single human being. We are the conquered, the occupied — we have been branded Citizens, subjects of this faceless, nameless entity — yet, many of us have learned to imitate and to love our conquerors; others have been trampled under the boot; even fewer of us have become powerful shareholders in the State. And the State continues to grow — sinking its mechanical tendrils into cyberspace, the gene code, and into the very fabric of space-time itself.

How shall we survive the suffocating weight of the State, and guard against the abuse of its mechanisms? To what is your dissent, against the corporate dynasties that oil the State’s cogs? To what is the maxim “well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny”, against the Standing Army? To what is the firearm against the UAV-Drone?

If and only if the pen is mightier than the sword, then the keyboard is mightier than the combined nuclear force of the ICBM.

By the tragic consequence of Technology’s fate, we shall finally learn this: that Freedom is not about entitlement — to beseech the mercy, and ask for permission from the State to give you what Nature has already imbued in you. That Freedom is about empowerment — that Freedom is about doing it.

– Madame Einzige, The Aufhebung Manifesto

Madame Einzige is an upcoming novel series inspired by my studies in history, politics, social science, technology, psychology, philosophy, and religion, in which I have allowed my obsession with historical pattern and speculative imagination run wild.

It is a novel series, where religious theocracies weave the technologies of virtual-reality, cyberspace, and mass surveillance into their state-wide system of totalitarianism, in order to magnify the holy and majestic feelings with God and clergy; where disenfranchised, disillusioned, cyber-prosthetic U.S. veterans violently take up arms against a government that failed to re-integrate them into society and failed to uphold the values they risked their lives for; where socially neglected computer nerds and failed upstarts realize themselves as the medium through which democracy may defend itself — through hacktivism, and going beyond mere website vandalism to do it and discover the political empowerment of the personal computer.

Young U.S. Veterans throwing away their medals during protest. Historically, when discharged war veterans that have failed to be re-integrated into society, they have been the first to organize revolts against the State. Will the same happen to the United States in the 21st century?

It is a novel series where occult-obsessed mathematicians and computer scientists crunch combinatorial sets and sacred permutations in order to develop algorithms for self-aware, disembodied Artificial Intelligences that instantly prophecize the future from petabytes of data; where Western war vets and ideologues form Private Military Companies offering their services to warlords and dictators, and are paid in land, market-monopolies, drugs, and an exploitable labor force; where certain corporations, under the guise of anti-piracy (and knowing that most piracy actually takes place outside of Western nations) and faux-humanitarianism, attempt to wholly replace the personal computer in developing countries, by selling mass, nationwide Cloud-computing networks to these countries, enabling their governments to scan the Cloud for anyone deemed a dissident, criminal, revolutionary, or spy.

Topological Map of the “Backbone” of the Internet (click to enlarge, PDF) — how much is humanity’s presence on the Web an accurate portrayal of us? How much does your online presence accurately portray you? Can the sum of humanity’s recorded interactions with a computer really be used to predict our future?

Madame Einzige is storytelling in which reality and art, analysis and imagination, science and mythopoesis, narrative and reporting, blend seamlessly together. Art imitates life: life imitates art.

The Metamorphosis: From Marxist-Leninist Camel to Nietzschean Lion

The series follows the titular protagonist, Madame Einzige, who is a former Communist East German Nationale Volksarmee specialist. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of Soviet-Communism, she has struggled and failed to find a way in the new post-Socialist world. She, like other East Germans, were ‘liberated’ (or annexed by the West, others have argued) from the DDR’s confines of Marxism-Leninism, Freie Deutsche Jugend, Cold War intrigue, STASI secret police, smuggled British rock records, Ampelmännchen pedestrian crossing lights, and Trabant cars–

Parade in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), 1989.

–into this charmingly decadent world of capitalism, personal automobiles, personal computers, shopping malls, MTV, Americanization, fast food, Hollywood, credit cards, “globalization” (or: corporate imperialism)–

Times Square, New York City

Surviving both the collapse of Soviet-Socialism, and the dramatic decline of Anglo-American Capitalism (both which curiously occurred during their respective invasions of Afghanistan), Madame Einzige moved from one failing system to another. Attempting to atone for her allegiance to the oppressive ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat‘ that existed in her native Communist East Germany, she gave the new Western system of democracy and Capitalism the benefit of the doubt, and embraced it at first.

But Capitalism quickly felt meaningless and alienating with its frenzied obsession with consumerism, fake promises of personal empowerment, and the mind-controllingly annoying advertisementsCapitalism was almost exactly what she imagined it was, having learned about it in her East Berlin school, only worse. Was she better off as a slave to the moralizing, collectivist ideology of the Marxist-Leninist State, or as a slave to vapid the materialism and time-wasted wage-earning of the Corporation?

Embittered, cynical, and barred from taking up any meaningful work in this new capitalist society of Europe because of her past involvement in the East German Dictatorship, she radically uprooted everything she had previously thought and felt about society and civilization. She saw things. Politicians hiding behind ideologies to garner support — the co-opting of popular protest by new ambitious elites — the bureaucratic kakistocracy and corruption that is fated to degenerate within barely a generation — “merit” that rewards the Noticeable, and not the Skilled — economies based off scarcity, its illusions, and unnecessary wants. As far as she was concerned, there was only one maxim any and all kinds of human social organization: the survival of self-interest. And how myopic, decadent, destructive, ignorant, ill-intended, base, and petty, the rabble’s self-interest is…

But self-interest it always was for humanity, self-interest it will always be. And what about those with more progressive, universal, benevolent, ‘altruistic’, enlightening interests? Yes, even those are self-interests by what else could those interests even survive, if humans didn’t invest their lives into them?

After trying her hand at so many post-Communist career paths, she realized that she only excelled at one thing — maybe the only thing she had the taste for — and one thing only: carrying out the State’s Monopoly on Violence. But now far be it for her to embrace the State or the Corporation as an enforcer (or “security contracts” they call them now), with what she had realized. On behalf of who or what would she be carrying out violence, now…?

“Durch die Worten des unsere Amerikaner Eroberern:
Jetzt gibst mir die Freiheit oder gibst mir Tod!!

The Child — Narration as Hyper-Reality: The Breaking the Forth Wall

“Hyperreality” is a state in which human cognition uses the filtering/mediation of a certain kind of reality-construct in order to navigate an experience. The “Hyperreal” feels more “real” than the thing itself.
Example: Hollywood as Hyperreality: Whenever many Western people experience something truly exhilarating, profound, and monumental impacting their own lives, a common response is: “this feels like a movie!” The simulated reality of the Hollywood blockbuster has become the filter through which many of us can make sense of the world.

Madame Einzige is speculative fiction — with firm grounding in history and social science, and not without disturbing plausibility. I wanted to create a novel series that portrays real social and political phenomena — exploring the diversity and multifacetedness of their deeper roots and causes, rather than haphazardly panning over these for a romanticized oversimplification, as is so often the case in fiction. Every character, no matter how obscure or commonplace, is a consequence of a greater historical and social context. No character exists in a void. No character is ex nihilo.

Technology, both the future of technology, and its history (expect to find a lot of retrocomputing in Madame E.!), is a major focus of the books. My focus is not on providing detailed descriptions of the gaudiness of new technology — it is on providing a stimulating, plausible, thought-provoking scenarios of Technology’s interfacing with its consequences on society, politics, economics, culture, biology, and psychology: and how it does so in unintended and unexpected ways. A specific technology’s deployment, appropriation, dissemination, and consequences, are also my concern. Having also worked in the tech sector myself, I am familiar with the cultures of technologists, the economics behind Information Technology, as well as the science and limitation of these technologies.

In approaching social and political conflict, Madame Einzige does not repeat the failures of humanitarian aid, foreign intervention, sanctions, incentives, as is also often the case in fiction — she is perfectly aware of them, calls them on their inefficiencies and destructiveness, and is often the one fighting them. Politics is about competing interests, and often about survival, not merely dogmatic-ideological adherence — and this is something that I have written carefully into my books.

The Heroine: A Knight-Errant for the 3rd Millennium?

Philosophers talk big. So much so, that often are they the biggest mother fucking badasses of the literary world. But seldom do they have the opportunity carry out their ideals. Even rarer, do they actually hold influence on leaders, policymakers, and enforcers, with which their philosophy is concerned. I’ve always wanted a character with that same intellectual cunning, biting sarcasm, boldness, and badassry of the philosopher, mixed with those very same traits of the epic hero.

Madame Einzige is exactly that. But she herself isn’t a mere mouthpiece of philosophy. She is an astute, active observer; a kind of pawn/knight of circumstance, convenience, and context. She is inclined toward DIY-libertarianism, virtue ethics, and the will to power, but she is not removed of her spontaneous, biological human nature to err, miscalculate, overextend, second-guess, biases, and failures. She is weary of dogmatism and the intellectual narrow-mindedness it brings (including dogma of science, atheism, and political ideology). She does not swear by anything but her own jugular vein.

Madame E is a mix of a kind of independent investigative journalist, private-eye, and when required, a paramilitary. You will see her blog-report on war veterans’ poverty and discontent over secured underground networks for hacktivists to chase, gather evidence to indict Western IT corporations for setting up surveillance systems in the post-Spring Middle-East, and participate first-hand in a rebellion in the oil-rich backwaters of Central Asia.

Warum ein Deutscher? (Why a German?)

The Germans occupy a very special path in modern history (no pun intended). Two World Wars, Nazism, supremacy in industry, economy, science, and technology, a history of militarism, nationalism, key contributions to philosophy, psychology, the arts. The last of the great Anglo-American “hot” wars for global supremacy. Ground-zero of the Cold War between East vs. West and Communism vs. Capitalism. And now the weight Germany is feeling from the expansion of the Eurozone.

To our modern narratives, the Germans represent the pinnacle of  a modernity, Western, civilization, industrialism, and science, all gone horribly wrong — a big part of our Reductio ad Nazium creation-myth of defining what a democracy is and isn’t. Of course, what disturbs us is that the same country that gave us Bach, Goethe, and the Volkswagen also gave us two World Wars and the Holocaust.

“Kollektivschuld der Deutschen” (Collective Guilt of the German People) Germany portrayed as a monk performing self-flagellation to vindicate their collective guilt.

Germans in real life are well aware of their dark legacy. Because of the collective guilt Germans are constantly bombarded with (the peak of the white-man’s guilt), they ironically have blossomed into some of the fiercest proponents of democracy, liberty, rights to privacy, protecting individual freedoms, political non-intervention, welfare, social justice, and other such things. (On the other hand, the Germans also seem to have some of the highest levels of political antipathy in the world — please note that what this video calls “apathy” (not caring) is actually “antipathy” (realistic approach to government bullshit and refusing to participate in it))

…But a woman?

My choice of Madame Einzige’s gender is conscious decision, situated right at heart of feminism, gender questions, and women’s liberation. (Although Mannzige may make a cameo in a future novel.)

Abortion is an issue where an ultimately private matter has become a heated moral-political issue, which is now entirely mediated by the state. The fact that a law must be passed in order to permit or to ban the practice, is an example of the State holding itself supreme. Must the resolving of women’s issues require the approval/blessing of the State?

This choice goes deeper than merely providing a female presence or perspective — as if to fill some sort of women’s quota in order to wishfully validate the perception of gender equality and women’s issues. Madame Einzige goes much, much deeper.

Madame Einzige is born out of the programme of female empowerment, especially with regard to Woman, State, and Civilization. To what extent must women rely on the benevolence of the State — the institutions of policy-making, laws, enforcement, bursaries, and punishment — to safeguard her place and interests? Are women vulnerable without the existence of the State? What about the Family, and lovers? How has the State co-opted the political support of women to strengthen its own position? Have women’s interests inadvertently been hijacked into becoming agents and enforcers of State power?

For Madame Einzige, if feminism is about female empowerment, then, like all great powers (to quote a familiar cliche I’m rather fond of), comes great responsibility, and owning up to one’s actions. If that responsibility — just like that empowerment — merely falls on the State, then what kind of position does that leave women in, but perpetuating State-dependency, State-intervention, and seeking State-validation? Must women’s self-interests and empowerment continually refer itself up to a higher authority, as it was under Patriarchy? Madame E is the embodiment of “No” to that question — woman, like man, can be the end in herself.

“To Spring from the Mind”: Influences and Origins

Max Stirner: “Sacred things exist only for the egoist who does not acknowledge himself: the involuntary egoist. He is always looking after his own, and yet does not count himself as the highest being; he serves only himself, and at the same time always thinks he is serving a higher being; he knows nothing higher than himself, and yet is infatuated by something higher… He debases himself only for the sake of ‘being exalted’, and therefore gratifying his egoism.”

(Section to be expanded in the future)

I love science, history, philosophy, technology, and a plethora of other subjects, sure, but when it comes to bringing these serious subjects to fiction, there tend to be an oversimplification for the sake of getting on with the story, rather than truly being written for the sake of there being a story to begin with. (*Not always though, there are some excellent philosophical-fiction writers.) I understand that this is the case for mass appeal, but it isn’t to my taste.

It is time to bring these subjects out of the lecture hall, out of overly expensive academic publications, and out of the memories of “oh, I remember learning that in college! Now I forgot it all!”, into the public aesthetic-cultural matrix. And with the increased exposure and widespread mass availability of such ideas (cf. the success of TED and Khan Academy), this certainly seems to be trend already. We’re adapting on a mass scale to be more receptive and curious of cosmopolitan, universal, big ideas, and Madame Einzige will play its role in this.

Read More »

Eternal Reoccurrence vs. Finite Progress

How repetitious is history? — Human Consciousness of Change and Persistence — The Age of Darkness before the Myths of Creation — Fandom Cults of the Academia — Origins of the Wheels of Reoccurrence — Whither be thou, O Sweet Progress?

(Now with fixed footnotes. Hover cursor over footnote to reveal it, or click!)

 

One of the major themes in my Weltanschauung that shows up in my novels, nonfiction, and others nuances, is the concept of historical reoccurrence: the notion that history repeats itself. As with my previous post regarding the death of philosophy, this is not a particularly revolutionary idea in this day and age. It’s wisdom you would’ve heard everywhere from children’s books, elementary school history class, newscasters, comedians, political propaganda, angry tirades, and is often its own butt in joke-telling. It’s a cliché that we take for granted, but also one of the few clichés that we actually take seriously when heeding to the warnings of economic forecasters, political soothsayers — even the advice of our friends telling us not to pursue a certain career path, or to avoid dating a special someone.

What’s interesting is that, our own mass awareness of this notion — that history repeats itself — is a mutually shared understanding, crossing cultures, classes, nations, ages[1], and eras. What’s also interesting (ironic even) is that this hasn’t always been the case everywhere in the history of human culture. What’s even more interesting is how we like to consider our contemporary era of freedom, democracy, mass communications, cheap beer, video games, cell-phones, and the Internet, as something that exists outside of this frame of historical reoccurrence — our contemporary era as an exception to historical reoccurrence, rather than belonging to it, because it’s so “new” and “revolutionary”.[2] And what’s further even more interesting [x4], is that we tend to exclude ourselves as individuals from reoccurrence ‘warning wisdom’ about our lives, eg: “I won’t be the one to make that mistake everyone else has done! Other people made that mistake because they’re stupid / weak / unskilled!”

Now before moving onto what I think is interesting in the above paragraph[3], I’d like to identify a few types of reoccurrence[4].

  1. The reoccurrence wisdom that concerns us as individuals carrying out our daily lives on a micro scale. Life-wisdom like: “she has a history of being flakey”, or “don’t become a writer because the Internet has made their profession obsolete!”, or “don’t wear Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops and baseball caps when haggling in foreign marketplaces, because you risk being pick-pocketed, and merchants will know you’re a tourist and will rip you off!”
  2. That which concerns us on a macro scale: our place in greater society, civilization, and the world. History, economics, politics, society, culture — the big questions, claims like: “allowing the government to strip us of our rights and freedoms in times of terrorist threat will lead to government tyranny and totalitarianism. Just look at the Nazis!”, or “all economies follow the trend of bubbles and bursts, growth-stagnation-collapse”, or “the West has always been the most progressive and innovative than any other part of the world”
  3. Finally, that which concerns observance to laws and axioms of natural phenomena, which requires a ‘reoccurrence’ paradigm. This is a key part of our cognitive understanding of the world as human beings: taking generic rules/concepts, and applying them to particular instances that are likely to repeat. Without it, we cannot have a) or b). These are things like: “F = ma”[5], [physical constants in nature], “don’t touch a hot stove or you’ll get burned” [pain avoidance], “whenever you speak to her about her dead husband, she gets upset” [human psychology as natural phenomena], and “Are you seriously wearing wear jeans and a t-shirt to my wedding tonight? You look like an idiot!” [social norms]

For our purposes here in this entry, we have two essential types of historical reoccurrence that are, I argue, closely linked — (a) life-wisdom, and (b) history-wisdom. Let’s move onto the two main schemes of time.

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