An Introduction to Sadposting

My previous post ‘Disturbed‘ came out in a flurry. I spent all of the next day thinking about deleting it.

I wrote it on my phone in about twenty minutes, my mind racing whilst lying in bed, reminiscing, dumping thoughts into my WordPress app in the hope that I might sleep better — I did — but thinking maybe it was too personal or too emotional to have on this blog…

Then I hit publish, set my alarm and rolled over.

It’s not a big deal, really. And yet why am I still so anxious about it?

What does a post like that say? It’s not subject to the same standards of more theoretical posts and I think my anxiety is that it is nonetheless viewed in that same way.

Writing, as a hobby, often speaks to momentary feelings and experiences and needn’t do anything more than that.

Consider this post a fragmentary and confessional introduction to that sort of post, regarding what I haven’t been able to say to those around me in recent weeks.

Continue reading “An Introduction to Sadposting”

Patchwork Pub Chat

Local government reorganisation is a great British hobby

Patchwork posts are stalling as I consider turning this investigation into something more purposefully substantial and long-form.

The PhD itch might need scratching soon…

Questions for future posts keep piling up as I dive deeper into the subjective fracturing inherent to the Gothic novel and read up on non-humanities takes on geopolitics.

Last night, with all this in mind, I met someone who works in city planning between Newcastle and Manchester and who is as enamoured by Yorkshire’s fractured infrastructure as I am.

He spoke about, for instance, how Leeds is the biggest city in the EU without a metro system and advocated higher connectivity between the county’s various cities. In his professional view, it was this lack of effective transport infrastructure alone that has held the county back from reaching its otherwise obvious potential to be a nation in its own right.

It was interesting to hear this call for better internal connectivity between Yorkshire’s cities when the government’s solution remains to forge “high speed” rail links to London to increase prosperity…

He said that One Yorkshire was the only way to go.

As he kept talking about connectivity, I decided to pitch patchwork to him as a model of “low integration, high connectivity.” I wasn’t very successful getting through to him — “I’m not a lefty but that sounds far too corporate for my liking”. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to hear someone actively working in this area, fascinated by local authority boundary changes, highlighting various regional secessionary trends but still holding on to that dream of blanket unification, even when it seemed to be antithetical to what he himself saw as the best way forward.

Ed Berger recently sent over a study on this sort of entanglement of unificatory and secessionary trends in a paper titled “Contested Sovereignty: Mapping Referendums on Sovereignty over Time and Space“, mentioned in an article on the history of “sovereignty referendums” in the Washington Post.

The spiral of conflicting sovereignties is fascinating. I can’t help but be reminded, reading the WP article, of how Nigel Farage declared the day the Brexit vote was announced as “our Independence Day”.

Farage was rightly ridiculed, considering so many Independence Days around the world celebrate the end of British rule, but does this not highlight just how entangled our various political and economic unions are in the minds of so many?

The British empire has dissolved (at least as a symbol of power) and the Soviet Union fell only 25 years ago. Now other unions exist in their places. They’re not strictly comparable, of course, but as these unions layer up on top of each other’s former or contested boundaries, the fracturing of identities is hardly a surprising result.

It seems obvious to me now, nationally and internationally, that there is a conflict over which future will win out — unified or patchwork. Desires for both seem internalised by many.

If you’re still wondering what the production of subjectivity has to do with patchwork, surely these trends reveal how it is in fact the eye of the storm. The conflict is as internally subjective as it is externally geopolitical.

Whichever one wins out globally will have a currently unimaginable impact on who we think we are.


I had wanted to write a post about the “crisis actors” conspiracy a few weeks back, following the Parkland shooting, but it didn’t come together quick enough to stay relevant and interesting.

The memetic entropy of some political arguments is pretty astounding.

One circular debate that is persevering, however, is that the students of that school are partly to blame for not being more accepting and trying to help Nicholas Cruz. Their response has been consistent and clear: “You didn’t know this kid.”

There’s an interesting dynamic to this that is very illuminating. Partly, it’s the tone of empathy that these people have for Cruz. As if to say, I know what it’s like to be ostracised at school — sometimes I felt like shooting up these arseholes too.

Evidently, Cruz isn’t a one off and he’s just one instance of a certain kind of fragile masculinity that has snapped. I’m sure we all know kids like that — the kind of kids that only need an excuse.

The difference is, those who were mindlessly ostracised because kids are definitely cruel aren’t the ones who shoot up their schools.

I’ve got my own sob stories of being bullied for lacking a certain level of masculinity or generally being a sexually repressed teenager. Most men do because men are weird. Those experiences are not comparable to the kids who were ostracised out of fear.

I saw a tweet on the timeline, quoting an essay by a Parkland student, who hit the nail on the head:

But it also brought back a memory from my primary school days, of a “friendship” from that time which has continued to haunt me.

Being in the UK, school violence on this scale isn’t a consideration, but I still knew kids like Cruz.

I remember one is particular who was a really difficult kid. We had had a fraught friendship. My Mum worked as a social worker specialising in foster children and other troubled kids and so young people who had had unstable starts in life were often at our house and I often seemed to end up on play dates with the difficult kids after their parents would chat to mine in the playground. Most were the sweetest kids just looking for a friend. On a handful of occasions, they would be straight up sadists.

This one kid in particular was a constant presence. Ostracised by everyone else, I repeatedly tried to befriend him but instead he only made me his target, verbally bullying for the most part. Towards the end of primary school, he’d started to become more physically violent.

The first instance I remember was when he grabbed my then “girlfriend” (quotes because we were 9, so…) and, like some sort of movie villain, held her like a human shield with a sharpened pencil to her jugular as if to provoke me somehow when the teacher had left the room. All I remember was being terrified. I’d never seen someone threaten violence that explicitly in real life before. She was just pissed and I remember she slapped him after wriggling free but she didn’t see the look in his eyes that I had seen. I felt like I went into shock.

His violence escalated but was short-lived. I later heard that, one day, whilst I was off school sick, he’d jumped on the back of a friend of mine during lunch break. He’d simply been shrugged off but landed in such a way that he broke his femur. He spent 6 months in a leg brace after that, humiliated, and didn’t attack anyone again.

This kid was never provoked. He simply wanted to show off his strength somehow and any humiliation he suffered was brought on by his own failed attempts to torment others.

He made it to Year 8 at secondary school before being removed from mainstream education. He still wasn’t violent anymore. Rumours went around that he had terrible insomnia and was going to be home educated.

We never saw him again.

I still thought about him often, however, as a sort of boogeyman, a terror of my childhood.

When I was in my early 20s, I saw him in the local paper. He’d been arrested for the rape of a local boy and the grooming of another, both whilst working as a local football coach. He’d lured them in with football-related trading cards. One of the boys text his parents what had happened, too ashamed and scared to tell them to their faces. They then notified the police who found 1000s of child abuse images downloaded from the Internet on his computer.

I followed the case really closely. Mortified that he’d finally found victims who were helpless before him. Still the same age group, only now he was older. He got sentenced to 7 years or something, I think, and life on the Sex Offenders Register. He should be out soon by that count…

This haunts me (beyond the obvious reasons) because this is a boy that I felt, in a perverse sort of way, very close to. I felt like I knew him really well, in that way you get to know bullies in trying to protect yourself and predict their actions. I used to watch him like a hawk, never wanting to be caught off guard by a tantrum. I never thought things would go this far though.

I remember after it had happened I felt that same sense of shock, as if I’d known “evil” and had dodged a proverbial bullet.

I can’t help but feel like these are the sorts of people I keep seeing parts of my Twitter feed defending.

Disturbed kids aren’t for kids to deal with. They’re always their victims, even before they murder them.

Salida Zapatista

A great question from Anon on CuriousCat earlier today:

Dude, loved reading your exit posts that you’ve been producing recently (just finished the one on the gothic line). It isn’t something i’ve seen you talk about (and don’t really know if you’re interested), but would love to know if/what you think about exit-movements in latin american such as the zapatista movement or indiginous resistance in places like Brazil (well, thinking about it i really can’t even tell if they can be considered the type of exit politics you’ve been drawing up, but still seems like there’d be some spark).

To expand on my direct but more informal reply:

The way I see it, any future instantiation of large-scale patchwork is wholly dependent on movements of internal resistance, whether indigenous or otherwise.

The Zapatista movement, in particular, is a fascinating example. I remember they were repeatedly mentioned last year by a Guatamalan friend of mine who was particularly interested in artistic forms of protest (as performance art or otherwise) and so the Zapatistas, with their inherently creative approaches towards resistance, are an fantastic example of the various forms exit strategies can take.

Anon’s reticence to refer to these movements as coming under “exit politics” is understandable. There is little “physical” exit involved in their aims but, as has been explored in various forms already on this blog, exit must likewise refer to the carving up of “interiors” — whether geopolitical or ontological.

The seasteading movement, for all its faults, is certainly aware of this (at one level) and so they have actively pursued the creation of entirely new territories. This is most likely an easier way to achieve secession (if you’ve got the resources) than the carving up of what is deemed to be the pre-existing sovereign territory of a nation-state. However, that doesn’t alleviate the problems of other subject groups.

This is partly why I have stuck to considerations of a UK patchwork. Not only is it my home country (“write about what you know”, and all that), but border lines have been constantly shifting here for centuries, whether related to the Irish Troubles, Welsh devolution, Scottish independence and other examples, like Yorkshire, which I’ve already been considering here.

But beyond this, the main reason is that post-colonial politics are not, admittedly, my forte. Therefore, references to these politics have been glaringly absent from this blog — but absence is not a sign of indifference.

The post-colonial politics of Latin America and India — to take another example — have repeatedly been on my periphery. (India especially, as last year I spent a surprising amount of time working on art projects that were related to Indian independence from British rule — 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of this. For instance, to momentarily lift up my lazily-maintained mask of anonymity, I worked on this.)

Continue reading “Salida Zapatista”

A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation

One of the first posts on this blog was about Star Trek: Discovery. The new series — a weird, templexed adventure set prior to The Original Series (TOS) whilst at the same time being the most technologically advanced we’ve so far seen — introduced a new kind of engine, vastly superior to the warp drive, that was to unpin all of the series’ plot twists and turns. I referred to it as “a tardigrade-powered rhizomatic nomad engine” and, having just finished the series earlier this week, I stand by that descriptor.

Unfortunately, what happened (of course) was that the crew were incapable of properly harnessing it.

The second half of the series — spoiler warning — dealt with some of the more complex issues of using such a system, particularly when the Discovery ended up having to use an ill-fitting human pilot after inadvertently killing off their original giant space tardigrade.

The main result of this experiment was that the crew of the Discovery, adjusting to their new tech, slipped through into a parallel (or, rather “Mirror”) universe where the United Federation of Planets (UFP) did not exist and human civilisation had rather colonised outer space as a “Terran” intergalactic empire, characterised by a penchant for bloody-thirsty backstabbing, human supremacy, the enslavement of “lesser” species and adhering to a neo-Roman fascist ideology. (Kind of like the Klingons in the primary universe.)

The heavy caricaturing of either side sounds fairly dull here and could, in less capable hands, feel like prog sci-fi getting high on its own supply — it wouldn’t be the first time Star Trek pushed the “our universe is so wholesome and ethical, our opposite is obviously the worst space Nazi, fascist regime imaginable” line — but there were just enough dollops of moral ambiguity on all sides to make for a somewhat consistently compelling journey.

It wasn’t really a surprise that the show went this way and, for all its faults, it did ask questions that felt prescient to our present moment — even if just by capturing our present political paranoia.

“How far is the UFP from the Terran empire, really?”

Both had fought a war with the Klingons but the Terrans had won their war already. In their universe, the UFP were only delaying defeat… Should the UFP, on their return, adopt some Terran tactics to avoid extinction? Should the Terrans take notes from the UFP, when they tumble into vicious post-victory in-fighting?…

Intergalactic horseshoe politics.

Star Trek has, throughout its various versions, set itself up as a “progressive” show, by the measures of the time it was made in. This is, to my mind, the “Star Trek spirit”. I am not a TOS loyalist. I knew that what was wrong with the most recent run of films was that, although they were good fun, they lost their “Star Trek” sheen by simply updating TOS aesthetically whilst retaining outdated displays of chivalry and machismo.

Adam Kotsko raises an interesting point about this in one of a new series of Star Trek: Discovery-themed posts over on An und für sich.

He writes how most of the series following TOS have tried to “distance themselves from some of the unsavory aspects of TOS itself, like the sexism, the tokenism, the imperialistic politics, the weird Orientalism of the portrayal of the Klingons, etc.” He continues:

By contrast, TNG was very self-consciously progressive — it was at this point that [series creator] Gene Roddenberry started to think more and more of Star Trek as a serious utopian vision rather than a frame for Twilight Zone-style thought experiments — and by passing off TOS as a nostalgic joke, they were saying that they had outgrown all those silly costumes and the silly attitudes that went with them.

He goes on to note, however, that Discovery has returned to much of TOS‘s tensions. The Klingons are, again,

a racialized/Orientalized Other, with whom the Federation is involved in an intense struggle for influence that always threatens to break out into war. So Discovery says: okay, let’s make them look like intensely racialized Others, and let’s lean into the Orientalism by making them religious fanatics parallel to Islamic jihadists — and then let’s still humanize them.

All this, Kotsko says, makes for an even more compelling and affecting series

because something like the Original Series — which loudly proclaimed its progressive bona fides while nursing a reactionary underside — might be the perfect vehicle to capture the strange dynamics of our moment, where eight years of self-satisfied progressivism have been swept aside by a tidal wave of reactionary resentment, where we all feel like we have been transported to the Mirror Universe (but then, maybe our former captain was from there all along). … By returning, in our own era of intense conflict, to the only Star Trek show that was produced during an era of serious domestic political ferment, Discovery reminds us that our future is never guaranteed.

I definitely agree with Kotsko but it is this dynamic, in previous series, that has always been the most compelling for me.

The best conflicts with the Borg, for instance, also felt like the UFP doing battle with itself. (“Soviets vs Maoists, or something.“)

There’s a further dynamic to excavate here, however. One I’m reminded of following the recent death of Stephen Hawking and the anticipation in the science community for his final paper, “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation“, which — it has been suggested — will explore the possibility of multiple big bangs giving birth to a much-theorised multiverse.

The title of the paper is the most intriguing and I can’t help but read it, in light of recent discussions, as being suggestive of some sort of exit from our universe’s Bataillean general economy.

(I can’t even imagine a universe not fitting with Bataille’s theory of energetic expenditure, which would surely be entirely other to our physics model and therefore incompatible with present multiverse theories…)

In light of this, I’m left feeling that Star Trek’s insistence on its Mirror Universe being the political antithesis to the series’ own righteous progressivism is, ultimately, unfortunate.

This is a general hang-up of the show, of course. (Even within their own universe, in prior series, when the UFP discovers a world that is even more utopian than their own, there is always a sinister underbelly waiting to be unearthed so as to discredit it.)

Whilst Discovery does to a good job of tapping into our present crisis of Leftist progressivism, considering the potential content of Hawking’s paper, I’m wondering: what does a smooth exit from Star Trek’s eternally inflating progressivism look like?

That might offer us a vision that genuinely speaks to our near-future rather than just our confused present.


In the ‘Collapse‘ addendum to ‘State Decay‘, invoking the Ccru’s “Flatline Materialism”, I wrote:

I didn’t use the patchwork face of Frankenstein’s monster to illustrate [‘State Decay’] for reasons of aesthetic facetiousness alone. The monster is precisely an example of uprooted Unlife, absolute betweenness, artificial death thanatechnically instantiated that horrifies Frankenstein as the “father” of something made in his bastard image. Patchwork is the bastard image of the state which [it] is born of [whilst] also [threatening] its imperial authority. Horror is its natural aesthetic mode [as it is of modernity in general] but, again, as Fisher writes [in ‘The Weird and The Eerie‘]: “[Terrors] are not all there is to the Outside”.

The Modern Prometheus is often considered to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of experimental science but, as soon as it was first published, Shelley’s novel provided many commentators with a monstrous image for exploring the coupled excitement and danger of an experimental politics.

Shelley herself was deeply influenced by the writings of her mother, the pioneering proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Many early political readings of Frankenstein, in light of Shelley’s maternal heritage, were explicitly Marxist, framing Frankenstein’s monster as an image of a proletarian man to come, transformed by the horrors of industrialised labour into a patchwork Borg-like figure of man-machinery.

(Alternatively, rejecting the transhumanist horror of the Borg, I can’t help but think of Kraftwerk’s affirmation of the fraternal same, famously depicted on the cover of Die Mensch-Maschine).

However, it was the father of modern Conservatism, Edmund Burke, who appropriated the image of the monster most famously (and ironically).

Wollstonecraft herself had clashed with Burke, writing A Vindication of the Rights of Man in response to Burke’s mourning of the French monarchy following the revolution of the 1790s, fuelling the “pamphlet war” in Britain over the validity of our own monarchy. Burke nevertheless later bastardised Wollstonecraft’s daughter’s Gothic creation: “A State without a religion is like a human body without a soul, or rather like an unnatural body of the species of the Frankenstein monster, without a pure and vivifying purpose.” Here, the decomposition of the State without religion, nonetheless “alive”, is seen as abhorrent in the framework of Burke’s Conservatism.

It sounds quite appealing to me.

What must be noted about Frankenstein in particular, and likewise in Wuthering Heights, is that, like so many other Gothic novels, it has, at its heart, a chase; a twisted Gothic line of flight; a pursuit of thanatoidal desire. Frankenstein’s monster, fleeing the regret of his “father”, ends up at the North Pole, journeying to the limits of both the earth and of thought. The thing desired, in this way, is always an-other, pursued “abstractly” rather than directly, beyond life and death, possession and pleasure.

The lines that Frankenstein and his monster take, likewise Jonathan and Dracula in that other Gothic (Yorkshire-based) classic, carve up space negatively across the globe. Elsewhere, in Wuthering Heights, Catherine and Heathcliff carve up the uninhabitable locality in which they are nonetheless embedded: the Yorkshire moors. Existing at the edge of the boundaries of bio-socio-political life, trying to push through to another side, these bastard creations run amok.

(As an aside, Heathcliff is, of course, not Gothically “created” like Frankenstein or Dracula but he is nonetheless an orphan and a “gypsy” (a nomad), outside the State, brought into the Family to run amok within its confines.)

Each of these examples, putting positive and negative conceptions of territorial carving to one side, pursue lines of “streaming, spiralling, zigzagging, snaking, feverish… variation”.

Deleuze and Guattari write:

The organic body is prolonged by straight lines that attach it to what lies in the distance. Hence the primacy of human beings, or of the face: We are this form of expression itself, simultaneously the supreme organism and the relation of all organisms to metric space in general. The abstract, on the contrary, begins only with what Worringer presents as the “Gothic” avatar. It is this nomadic line that he says is mechanical, but in free action and swirling; it is inorganic, yet alive, and all the more alive for being inorganic. … Heads (even a human being’s when it is not a face) unravel and coil into ribbons in a continuous process; mouths curl in spirals. Hair, clothes… This streaming, spiralling, zigzagging, snaking, feverish line of variation liberates a power of life that human beings had rectified and organisms had confined, and which matter now expresses as the trait, flow, or impulse traversing it. If everything is alive, it is not because everything is organic or organized but, on the contrary, because the organism is a diversion of life. In short, the life in question is inorganic, germinal, and intensive, a powerful life without organs, a Body that is all the more alive for having no organs, everything that passes between organisms (“once the natural barriers of organic movement have been overthrown, there are no more limits”).

Entangling this with Burke’s logic, we can see the State, bound by degrees by religion and/or the monarchy, as a diversion of the life of politics. The borders of the State must be perforated, internally and externally, so that life might once again flourish in all its variances.



Lovers’ Flight: The Gothic Line in ‘Wuthering Heights’

All round the horizon there is this same line of sinuous wave-like hills; the scoops into which they fall only revealing other hills beyond, of similar colour and shape, crowned with wild, bleak moors — grand, from the ideas of solitude and loneliness which they suggest, or oppressive from the feeling which they give of being pent-up by some monotonous and illimitable barrier, according to the mood of mind in which the spectator may be. [1]

The peak moment of my late teen tradgoth sensibilities was, without a doubt, smoking a roll-up with a friend in the graveyard of St Michael and All Angels’ Church in Haworth, having ditched our party whilst on a school trip.

We had come to visit the parsonage, next door, once home to the Brontë family.

I remember, despite trying to act all moody and aloof, how cool I thought it was, in the way it did not seem to sit comfortably in time and space. This is something all tourist attractions have in common, perhaps, but there was more to it than this. The rooms of the otherwise sizeable parsonage felt claustrophobic and small; the village graveyard unnervingly overcrowded whilst the moors stretched out, empty, all around us.

The name of the village itself is said to mean “hedged enclosure“.

In my English class, we had been studying the Gothic novel, reading Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, opting for a trip to Haworth over that more famous North Yorkshire parish: Whitby was perhaps too overcoded by its own vampiric tourist industry for our purposes — it is difficult to penetrate the noise. Haworth itself, of course, also has a tourist industry, but we saw little of this. We were bussed directly to the parsonage and back out again, entering an enclosure within an enclosure.

Standing in the graveyard, the fact that Wuthering Heights (along with the rest of the Brontë sisters’ output) had come out of this place was not a surprise to me in that moment. There were ghosts — material and immaterial, and others somewhere in between — every which way you looked.

In her preface to the novel, Charlotte Brontë, pseudonymously editing the text for a second edition following Emily’s untimely death, apologises to the non-Yorkshireman for what they are about to read. Some critics argue that, through her edits, Charlotte hoped to make the horrors imagined by her wyrd sister more palatable to the Brontë family’s audience: England’s well-to-do and well-read city-folk. Whatever her intentions, Charlotte rightly forewarns those from more mannered climes that “in the West-Riding of Yorkshire are things alien and unfamiliar”. [2]

Continue reading “Lovers’ Flight: The Gothic Line in ‘Wuthering Heights’”

Cambridge Analytica

“[Steve Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking ‘Ugh. Totally ugly’ to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.” [via]

According to our new Guardian whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, this is a central tenet of the so-called Breitbart doctrine: “If you want to change politics, you first have to change culture, because politics flows from culture.”

The Left has been saying as much for half a century too, if not longer, and yet remains surprised when, despite all its endless books talking about it, capitalism finds more effective and cunning ways to capture these flows.

Watching this interview has got me leafing through Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man again. Here’s some choice cuts:

Just as people know or feel that advertisements and political platforms must not be necessarily true or right, and yet hear and read them and even let themselves be guided by them, so they accept the traditional values and make them part of their mental equipment. If mass communications blend together harmoniously, and often unnoticeably, art, politics, religion, and philosophy with commercials, they bring these realms of culture to their common denominator — the commodity form. The music of the soul is also the music of salesmanship. Exchange value, not truth value counts. On it centers the rationality of the status quo, and all alien rationality is bent to it.

Describing to each other our loves and hatreds, sentiments and resentments, we must use the terms of our advertisements, movies, politicians and best sellers. We must use the same terms for describing our automobiles, foods and furniture, colleagues and competitors-and we understand each other perfectly. This must necessarily be so, for language is nothing private and personal, or rather the private and personal is mediated by the available linguistic material, which is societal material. But this situation disqualifies ordinary language from fulfilling the validating function which it performs in analytic philosophy. “What people mean when they say … ” is related to what they don’t say. Or, what they mean cannot be taken at face value — not because they lie, but because the universe of thought and practice in which they live is a universe of manipulated contradictions.



Notes on our Global Civil War

Bifo has a new essay up on Verso today in which he diagnoses civil war as “a global trend, spreading at various degrees of intensity in many countries of the world.”

However, the American case is particularly interesting as two phenomena are meeting there at particularly acute angles: the privatisation of war and weaponry, and psychotic epidemics.

He takes up Trump’s response to this year’s latest string of mass shootings in the US:

Trump’s argument here is mind-boggling: as lot of people are mentally disturbed in this country, says Trump, we need more weapons in order to kill them in case they try to kill us. Nevertheless there is some truth in these hypocritical words: by themselves, easy weapons do not explain the manslaughter. The malady here is deeper. It concerns social subjectivity itself.

Bifo’s argument is, by any other name, another diagnosis of the coming anarchy; of our patchworks to come. The essay’s alignment with the conversation currently unfolding on Twitter and the blogosphere is obvious.

What we are now seeing, he says, is “a clash of incompatible cultures that do not, and cannot, belong in the same political universe”, echoing recent takes from Land on the timeline.

Civil war is the name we give to this incompatibility. Civil war is not only the name of what is going on right now in the United States of America, but also, in changed forms, what is happening in the EU and the United Kingdom. Brexiteers and remainers are not two political parties that may eventually find a common ground of democratic government, they are two cultural armies that for the next generation will diverge more and more. Across the world, as political government is replaced by automatic governance, the very sphere of social intercourse is collapsing.

Patchwork has an explicitly anti-colonial vector (yet to be properly excavated) and these failing processes are inherent to coming instances of state decay.

The background of the present internal decaying political order in the Northern hemisphere, and the return of racism on a massive scale, is the inability to deal with the end of modernity, and to confront the great migration, and the legacy of centuries of colonialism, exploitation and devastation. Civil war in the white countries is the other side of the same coin.

Bifo raises an interesting point about the role that the gun debate will play in any coming American patchwork, as has been tentatively explored a few times on the timeline. Deleuze, of course, saw America as the country where patchwork was most likely to be instantiated and it is arguably the unifying and paradoxically stellified United States Constitution that has undone most of this potential.

As laws come to resemble immovable statutes in the face of global change, it is instead the social subject that is changing — something’s got to give — and these laws begin to affect the social subject to its detriment.

Mental distress, mental suffering and mental breakdown are a massive phenomenon in the United States: as artificial intelligence promises to extend our memory into infinity, we see an epidemic in cases of dementia.

Nervous breakdown, outbursts of panic, and widespread depression are the different shapes that the wave of dementia takes. That takes form in the American psyche as the aging, white mind becomes increasingly obsessed with the myth of potency and the humiliating experience of impotence.

Is Bifo making the argument that resistance to geopolitical splitting is only exacerbating mental disintegration? (Today is yet another day when I wish Mark was still around to offer his own surgical insights.)

Bifo concludes:

The American liberals, like the centre-left politicians of the European continent seem to think that global trumpism is a provisional disturbance, and democracy will sooner or later be restored and historical reason will regain its course.

They are deluding themselves. Global trumpism is not going to give way to a restoration of the modern reason. The global spread of dementia that has emerged in the years 2016 and 2017 is the new psychosphere of the planet.

Politics can do nothing to deal with the psychotic shift in the social sphere: the political tools for rational government are out of order, and for good.

As reason has been captured by financial algorithms, this evolution has taken a path that seems incompatible with rationality.

We must think of the future from the point of view of systemic psychosis, and this mean the abandonment of political action and of political theory.

We shall see how the response to this essay, if there is one, unfolds over the coming days. Bifo’s call for an abandonment of political action and theory is sure to ruffle some feathers. I’d argue the sentiment here is closer to that already expressed on this blog recently: What we need to do is abandon political action and theory as we know them. The world is changing. Our distress is surely a symptom of our inability to keep up.

I’m reminded, as ever, of that masterful paragraph from Ballard’s The Drowned World:

This growing isolation and self-containment, exhibited by the other members of the unit and from which only the bouyant Kerans seemed immune, reminded Kerans of the slackening metabolism and biological withdrawal of all animals forms about to undergo a major metamorphosis. Sometimes he wondered what zone of transit he himself was entering, sure that his own withdrawal was symptomatic not of a dormant schizophrenia, but of a careful preparation for a radically new environment, with its own internal landscape and logic, where old categories of thought would merely be an encumbrance.

Elsewhere in the mainstream column-o-sphere, Amia Srinivasan has written an essay that asks: “Does anyone have the right to sex?

She also explores the mass shooting as a symptom of not just the demented white mind but the demented male mind in particular. The increase in young male mass shooters becoming gender terrorists through their expressions of MRM sensibilities is surely a red flag suggesting that men, unable to cope with the accelerating disintegration of patriarchy and traditional male subjectivity, misdirect their fury towards women who, it seems, are socially far better prepared for the processes of becoming necessary for malleable subjectivity.

As Srinivasan points out,

feminism, far from being [the] enemy, may well be the primary force resisting the very system that made [Elliot Rodger] feel – as a short, clumsy, effeminate, interracial boy – inadequate. His manifesto reveals that it was overwhelmingly boys, not girls, who bullied him: who pushed him into lockers, called him a loser, made fun of him for his virginity. But it was the girls who deprived him of sex, and the girls, therefore, who had to be destroyed.

The article, at one point, briefly considers the role of political lesbianism in addressing this imbalance, making me wonder if we can consider this as an instantiation of proto-patchwork sensibilities formed explicitly along lines of socio-sexual desire, and there is also a suggestion that such anethical sortings of ideological difference may be required again in the near future. It seems that short tempers and easy-access weapons are short-circuiting the paths towards long-term change, to the detriment of all, even those committing such atrocities.

Srinivasan concludes:

The question, then, is how to dwell in the ambivalent place where we acknowledge that no one is obligated to desire anyone else, that no one has a right to be desired, but also that who is desired and who isn’t is a political question, a question usually answered by more general patterns of domination and exclusion. It is striking, though unsurprising, that while men tend to respond to sexual marginalisation with a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, women who experience sexual marginalisation typically respond with talk not of entitlement but empowerment. Or, insofar as they do speak of entitlement, it is entitlement to respect, not to other people’s bodies.


To take this question seriously requires that we recognise that the very idea of fixed sexual preference is political, not metaphysical. As a matter of good politics, we treat the preferences of others as sacred: we are rightly wary of speaking of what people really want, or what some idealised version of them would want. That way, we know, authoritarianism lies. This is true, most of all, in sex, where invocations of real or ideal desires have long been used as a cover for the rape of women and gay men. But the fact is that our sexual preferences can and do alter, sometimes under the operation of our own wills – not automatically, but not impossibly either. What’s more, sexual desire doesn’t always neatly conform to our own sense of it, as generations of gay men and women can attest. Desire can take us by surprise, leading us somewhere we hadn’t imagined we would ever go, or towards someone we never thought we would lust after, or love. In the very best cases, the cases that perhaps ground our best hope, desire can cut against what politics has chosen for us, and choose for itself.

Within our broader considerations of political desires more generally, these same questions are worth keeping in mind. How these considerations might further modulate theories of patchwork deserves a far more in depth consideration and there is one such essay forthcoming by someone else that I think will lay the groundwork for this explicitly. I’m very excited for it to surface.

At all levels, private and public, desire carves up space in unpredictable ways. Love and dynamics of sexuality and gender politics, in particular, may have more of a bearing on Actually Existing Patchwork than has so far been publicly discussed, but there’ll be more on that later in the next Patchwork Yorkshire post and by others elsewhere…

Until then.

The Gothic Secession of Patchwork Yorkshire

To understand the events of the next fifty years, then, one must understand environmental scarcity, cultural and racial clash, geographical density, and the transformation of warfare. The order in which I have named these is not accidental. Each concept except the first relies partly on the one or ones before it, meaning that the last two – new approaches to mapmaking and to warfare — are the most important. They are also the least understood. [via]

Following my previous post on patchwork, ‘State Decay, which tentatively introduced the idea and explored why it is something that the Left should take more seriously, I was repeatedly challenged over the legitimacy of patchwork being anything more than “science fiction”.

The difficulty in addressing this is, of course, that theories of patchwork are inherently speculative, but if we are to jettison the use of our imaginations when addressing the future, what point is there to thinking (about it) at all?

To me, this line of criticism felt like a blatant instantiation of the Left’s consistent inability to dig itself out of the “capitalist realist” fallacy that Mark Fisher so famously described in his book of (roughly) the same name.

Capitalist Realism presents us with myriad ways in which we (quite literally) psyche ourselves out of thinking for the future — or, as Fisher would later recalibrate his focus, alluding to the templexity of our present, “the new”. Surely the one thing the book (and much of Fisher’s thought) asks of its readers is that they realise their melancholy and their defeatism are not, despite appearances, their own.

In this way, the book’s subtitle, “Is there no alternative?”, is not a rhetorical question. It asks to be internalised so that we might root out bad faith wherever it manifests. If we can manage this, maybe we can succeed in answering Fisher’s question confidently in the affirmative.

Does that mean we, you, have to take patchwork seriously? Of course not. It’s my belief, nonetheless, that we should, as one of a multitude of seemingly disparate theories that have the potential to shape the contours of the path ahead.

Patchwork is, in this way, just one alternative — or, rather, one approach which allows for alternatives to naturally proliferate. Only a few proliferations have been considered. If they aren’t to your tastes, we can come up with others.

These theories become increasingly more prescient when we recognise that the odds on something resembling patchwork being instantiated get better every year.

Saying that is all well and good, of course, but the blogosphere and Twitter like stats (and graphs) if you’ve got them. References, please!As such, the repeated critique of ‘State Decay’ went something like this: “If patchwork was worthy of being taken seriously, surely we’d have seen something of the path that will lead us there already?”

Had this been a few years ago, I might have agreed with this. However, I have found, much to my surprise, that my own home county of Yorkshire has been discussed semi-regularly in the press as potentially heading towards something resembling patchwork in the future.

Admittedly, descriptions of contemporary Yorkshire politics are not often worded in this way… But Yorkshire is, at the very least, known for being fragmented.

Continue reading “The Gothic Secession of Patchwork Yorkshire”