People living in a fantasy sometimes grow desperate for reality. This leads to a fetishism which is afflicting intellectuals, where they latch onto some piece of fantasy as though it were a reality. I propose to describe the American election in a way that avoids this mistake. This means treating fantasy itself as the only reality. And this real fantasy would be the financial perspective, and so what follows shall avoid the assertion of any real authentic politics beyond that frame.
Politics can be considered as a meticulously managed process, which is just a course of business, and especially the entertainment business, or what we call the media. But then there are factions who engage in political struggles as though there were something else at stake besides business as usual, namely the pursuit of justice. The problem of interpreting the election is the conflation of business interests with other supposed political motivations. These other motivations are always suspicious, because they can always be interpreted as masked financial ploys. It is obvious that the media businesses are stirring up activist victim communities and other more violent political fantasies, and that the whole political system can be seen as a network of businesses that use these sensations for promotional purposes. And activism itself has obviously become a profession, and so the supposed justness of any political cause inevitably gets confused with the activist’s own need for financial well-being. And aside from financial incentives, activism also has another tendency towards perversion, because it can be seen as a pretence to existential significance, or a romantic passion acting-out against the emptiness of the void. And so if it is not a business strategy, then activism can appear as recourse against nihilism, and either way it is not an authentic response to an external reality.
From a business perspective, we could say that black lives matter or don’t matter according to institutional norms, which are namely the protocols and doxas of finance. This is what I consider the master fantasy, the fantasy of hegemonic white patriarchs that is imposed as a global reality. When someone attacks this fantasy of white cis-gendered authority, then I wonder what else they have in mind, besides merely a rebellion against said authority. Rebellions of course are always dependant on what they rebel against. It seems that the challengers fail to appreciate how substantial this hegemonic fantasy actually is. White authority is based in thousand-year-old fantasies, and next to these ancient racial codes the opposed fantasies of justice appear supplementary.
If the hegemonic institutions collapsed (banks, parliaments, corporations, universities…) it’s interesting to fathom what conditions might ensue. Always a lover of chaos, I find satisfaction in this dream of a return to something raw and cosmic, and the victim-communalists who aim to bring this about stir my desires. But isn’t it irresponsible to indulge in fantasies of war? This brings us to the ethics of violent fantasy, which is the key for interpreting various electoral phenomena, such as the alt-right movement. These political fantasies are obviously dialectical responses to the soulless ethos of liberal business. The network society has forced people into endless self-promotion and interpersonal commerce, where they relate to each other in vague promiscuous roles of client/agent/boss/employee etc. Everyone is compelled to cooperate flexibly in order to accelerate circulations, and this imperative friendliness generates a by-product of concentrated negativity that is expressed by various counter-liberal political fantasies.
And then there is a tendency among observers to assume that those violent fantasies are dangerous, as though they harboured the potential for some atrocious realization in action. What is overlooked is that this fear of those supposedly dangerous fantasies is itself a fantasy, and such perception of imaginary danger deserves criticism. The hegemonic frame can treat all this as problems for the institutional management of political fantasies. The supposedly authentic non-financial contenders ultimately get captured back under the authority of the financial system, because it is only there that they have consequences.
I believe the ultimate political issue is this institutional management of violent fantasy. There is an initial negativity arises as a real structural given as soon as the post-1989 liberal pantheon (Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela…) takes possession of the world with its vacuous positivity. The broader ethical-political problem of this epoch concerns how that negativity could possibly be expressed. Perhaps violent fantasy is a valuable alternative to more physical forms of violent behaviour. And as I understand them, these are not so much political questions, as rather practicalities of fantasy management, where it may be best to establish a comfortable home for that negativity in the realm of fantasy. The negativity corresponds with a gap in the liberal financial system, and that gap is filled with the violent fantasies of the alt-right, or of tankie socialists. These modes of fantasy are how the financial system is coming to metabolize its own negativity, which it treats as an energetic resource for the purpose of commodification.
This American presidential election is a virtuoso display of simulation management featuring a cast of celebrity actors. It’s classical theater in that it bears the signatures of Aristotle and Dickens, along with more than a tad of noir. The back story is the supposed exhaustion and moral bankruptcy of the institutions of liberal idealism. This exhaustion is a source of drama, and not necessarily a reality in any way. The purpose of this election is to reinvigorate American sovereignty as a romantic adventure, or a stigmatic sensation, and this requires that all the factions of the society find their place in the drama. The institutions recharge themselves through this dramatic interpolation which is an operation of shoring up moral charisma. This election is unique in how it has captured the attention of the excluded, and brought their energy in the wheels of officialdom.
The presidential debates drew on various genres. For example, there was a sitcom-like aspect, as though Archie Bunker were arguing with Rosanne. The point here is the profound affinity between democracy and drama, which goes back to their common Hellenistic origins. The simulation works so well because it has been running for thousands of years, and draws on a deep archive of symbols. The appearance of institutional weakness is only a dramatic ruse, where this pathos is used to provoke concern for the well-being of the Other. In observing this drama, the critical question is how the performers (and spectators) are captured into their roles, or where they are at liberty to step off-stage. Everything hinges on how the actors (which could include anyone) are invested in the reality of the performance.
There are various motivations for assuming political roles. The performers are all playing for money, and so they are like paid actors, but this financial motivation is confused with the need for honour or existential fulfillment, and so there is a deeper instinctual capture into the performance. Financial incentives are always conflated with other social and psychological motivations, and each political faction has different ways of linking them together. For political roles on the right, being financially motivated is part of their identity, so there is no conflict between business and authenticity, whereas roles on the left must disavow their financial incentives, and somehow enact a purification of their politics to get rid of economic impurities.
Environmentalists must appear exceptionally committed to the reality of their political role, and to the scientific fact that a looming catastrophe can be averted through political action. Leaving science aside, catastrophe is a seductive fantasy which charges the life of activism with purpose. An activist can be considered as someone pragmatically responding to real conditions, or else as someone in the grip of a fantasy. The alternative between these two interpretations would be referred to in alt-right circles as a red-pill/blue-pill choice. The passionate face of an activist invites us to make a hermeneutic decision, where that valour, panic, indignation, vigilance… that passion is either a response to some scientific reality, or else it is the index of a fantasy, or else it is good acting for the sake of money (or whatever money might represent…). This is a hermeneutic decision in the philosophical sense, since this cannot be resolved by argument. If immanent catastrophe is indeed a scientific fact, then it is also necessarily a fantasy, and there is no logical basis on which to decide between these interpretive orientations. It’s this undecidability that makes an authentic decision possible. It should be clear which pill I have taken, and so for me the question is how well Amy Goodwin and Jill Stein have been cast for their roles, which is perhaps something of an Antigone, hence the sublime aura.
Some white cis-gendered men are privileged in that the entire simulation is their own indigenous property, in that they can step back to survey the whole thing as a grand dramaturgical production. This capacity is a racial trait that qualifies them for the vocation of theatrical production, or else as detached spectators. Of course anyone could be capable of this epoche, but they would have to learn the tradition of Euripides, St. Paul, Ovid, Cicero… as political activism always takes a role on this Hellenistic stage. This stage is coextensive with politics tout court because it takes protest to its dramaturgical limits in crucifixion, and thereby establishes an unsurpassable absolute in the field of political representation. And as other symbolic traditions are encountered through colonial exploits, they are absorbed by over-coding into the occidental dramatic matrix.
A few years ago, a native girl called me a “colonial settler”, and having lived most of my life in exile, this caused me to laugh. But the more I consider this term, the more I appreciate the designation. My role is that of an “unsettled settler”, one who was maybe driven off the land, or who abandoned the land for political reasons, or for other economic opportunities. I adopt this role of the unsettled settler in the mode of fantasy. Exile is an off-stage role, where one takes obscure, minor positions for the purpose of survival. There are advantages to remaining off-stage, since this is where a broader dramaturgical conception of the performance becomes possible. There is more space for liberty at the margins of the stage. As the financial simulation deepens its control of life, it’s from this liminal condition of exile that we maintain continuity with Hellenistic literature. Exile is a topological position for optimal transmission, like in Midnight’s Children.
Now there is a critical point to make concerning the evaluation of literary work. There should never never arise any question about the value of literature’s contribution to the world, and instead of this doxic judgment we should only consider the structural adequacy of assumed roles as a fantasy. Anyone who still purports to evaluate work has obviously taken the wrong pill. Knowledge of the absolute value of work must be abandoned to the unknown perspective of the infinite Other, so that we finite beings are liberated to indulge our fantasies as the ultimate anti-vocations. Literature cannot be produced otherwise than as an anti-vocation. This overcomes the Hegelian disregard for mortality which usurps the impossible perspective of the divine other. Amor Fati.
Perhaps Hillary and Donald are performing a lover’s spat. Her credibility demads zero susceptibility to his seductive charm as a patriarchal boss. She does want him to grab her pussy, but only because it would increase her victim capital, although it could also dangerously position him as an uncastrated man’s man. Emerging from this bizarre anti-erotic dance, the odds are now in her favour. He can win only if he appears uncastrated, but that has become unlikely because of how he attacked Bill, where Donald himself assumed the role of Bill’s castrator. Hilary tricked him into doing that. So it would seem that castration is trump, and that she should prevail in that suit. Her pussy appears ‘dentata’, and if Donald makes a move on her, then he would lose his most precious possession. Since he cannot complete the sexual act, it would seem we are transitioning to a regime of the empress… and it would seem the money was on her all along.