Alexander Bard on Sat, 5 Mar 2016 09:20:07 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Return of the F-scale - and How to Respond

Dear Jan Hendrik & Co

What Söderqvist and I started with in the "Syntheism" book is the classic
case of looking for potential radicality in "the places where nobody is
looking". Definitely using tons of Hegel (here I agree with Zizek in "Less
Than Nothing", one of our major inspirations, that a "return to Hegel" is
what is most needed today for leftist discourse). We found this is in the
empirically validified differences in "priorities of worlds" between
today's 40-year-olds and 20-year-olds: To 40-year-olds the physical world
is still primary and the digital world is secondary and mostly an
"irritant" as a buzzing smartphone in their pockets, in this generation's
shallow search for "authenticity" as "lifestyle".

However to 20-year-olds the digital realm is the real world, period. And
will always be. So what do 20-year-olds make of the physical world?
Fascinatingly nobody seemed to have asked that question before Söderqvist
and I did (Critchley agrees this is where Bard & Söderqvist are pioneers,
if our book is correctly understood as a response to his "The Faith of The
Faithless"). So we arrived at Burning Man as this is what makes Silicon
Valley's culture distinctly original (the California hippie heritage rather
than the brash capitalist element of it).

Burning Man is now the fastest growing sociocultural movement on the planet
and despite being an easy target for classic leftist critical theory (a
sitting duck if you like) it has tons of stuff to teach "the left" on how
to go about things in the digitalised and globalised world (so of course I
started working from inside the burner movement which now even contains
"Syntheist congregations"; a theorist who does not practice what he/she
preaches is pretty useless, as far as I'm concerned).

So what do digital natives make out of a physical world they have made
secondary? Well, they turn it into a sacred playground of course (your
fellow American-born Australian theorist Mark Pesce wrote prophetically
about this 15 years ago). And what do people do when they end up in droves
to a sacred playground for real? They go tribal of course. And what do
people do when they arrive in a sacred playground? Well, interestingly they
stop using money as much as they possible can (there are no Coca Cola signs
at Burning Man and if there were they would be torn down and burned), make
connections that are concrete rather than abstract, they simply start
praticising a utopia; a temporary utopia for sure (we are not naive) but a
utopia nevertheless, the good old driving force of The Left which The Left
has lost track of (and consequently and deservedly has thereby lost its
drive too; a left without a utopia is as dead as a Christianity without a

Needless to say, the burner movement has already expanded globally, is now
decentralised (San Franscisco headquearters has long lost control of it),
has hundreds of spin-offs around the world, and now also has both urban and
permanent extensions (the Permaburners community). So we already have a
spiritual (as in "not new age") and proto-Marxist movement expanding
rapidly in full force, developing its spirituality in a Deleuzian
egalitarian fashion, and appealing tremendously to 23-year-old digitally
savvy art students with radical emancipatory and environmentalist values to
begin with (the movement now consists of millions). What is despertaley
needed now though is critical thiinking or else libertarian
"micro-capitalism" rather than The Left will conquer this generation and
another opportunity for The Left will have been lost.

Still this is still just one early example of "digitopia" in the physical
world. I firmly believe in focusing on digital integrity (supporting Apple
and Google when they fight the FBI but never going naive about the enormous
netocratic power concentrations they now constitute, meaning next fighting
for open source as a general principle rather than just a market platform
option etc). I'm not saying a general utopia is possible, but like
Meilassoux and Zizek, I firmly believe we need "a return to the possible
impossible" in all its assumed naivety, a faith in faith itself as
Critchley and Baiou would have it. Temporary utopias are after all the
playgrounds where permanent utopias can become feasible, and thereby the
local isolated possible is the correct response to the global impossible
(as I'm sure the formidable nettimer Ted Byfield would agree; at least I
always prefer anarchist experiments to Stalinist solutions).

The politico-theological monasteries are back and with more digital
cleverness and and embrace of criticial theory (think class instead of
subculural identities) the eco-villages could do real well to (and I want
people to follow up and our work as we do on Critchley and Badiou). That's
where I suggest we look and invest our lives and energies, rather than
money, next. But then we also have to kill academia (it's the next diigtal
upheaval anyway; leftist thinkers principally sponsored by academic
goverment budgets will all be gone within a decade, trust me) and move to
Syntheist monasteries and the like. I'm up for it. Already halfway there.
Are you?


2016-03-05 5:23 GMT+01:00 jan hendrik brueggemeier <>:

> Hi Alex -
> Just a quick question from my end. The topic of spirituality does get
> mentioned occasionally on nettime. I remember Marc Stahlman describing
> Norbert Wiener as a spiritual Tolstoyian...:) I also believe that majority
> on this list would agree with you that what we try to capture with "the
> left" in an antiquated way feels a bit "spiritless". On a personal note
> having moved to Australia from Europe I find it very intriguing to see how
> progressive/left/anarcho/envrionmental " protest" movement attempt to
> facilitate indigenous spirituality in the movements in Australia.


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