Monday, July 27, 2015

Goodbye Facebook; Litreralism, thou hast slain thy friend...

I have ceased to use all blurb-length social media. My Facebook app is deleted. I left my page up in case someone wants to send me an individual message, but I'm not posting to it anymore. This blog post will be the last thing I ever post to Facebook.

"Social media" is a frighteningly stark example of the performative contradiction. Its form disallows almost all but the least social of communication (the direct, literal, propositional statement), unless what you're posting is a photo or video (and even then, the expectation of the medium is that the visual will be very low on theatricality and high on literalism). While it reduces almost all phrasing to paraphrasing in this way, for some reason we call it a "medium" (the singular of "media"), which is what you call a means of indirect communication, as when a ghost or a spirit or demon or god speaks through a person, or when the genius loci or "muse" enters an artist and inspires him/her to create a masterpiece. Is it really us communicating through the structure of Facebook/Twitter, or is the structure of Facebook/Twitter communicating itself (virally) through us?

So I don't think Facebook/Twitter are "social media". I think they are antisocial demons, and that they have possessed us, and are using us at least as much as vice versa, and I doubt the relationship is equivalent.

At any rate, SM (sadomasochistic forced literalism) also happens to be very anti-OOO, by virtue of its very form. As Graham Harman says, very little of the communication that happens between beings takes a literal form. Most of it is theatrical. Poetry uses form to communicate what content is insufficient to express. Metaphor evokes whole worlds of experience unavailable in a literal description of something. Jokes can't be explained: you have to "get" them. Magic tricks are entertaining only if you don't know how they're done. And permaculturist diagrams to the contrary, a chicken is not trying to tell you what it's made of or what you can get out of it, nor what it does or what it can do for you: it's - not - there - for - you! It's there for being there. It's the same for any object, including (but not limited to) a human being or the human species, and that's what OOO is trying to say.

I think that subjecting yourself constantly to literalism (and bombarding others with it all the time) induces depression in the clinical sense. Part of what constitutes depression is the sense that you can reduce everything in your life to its literal meaning and that that's all it is. Since literal meaning is actually only a very small part of what anything is, this reduces your view of your own experience and potential to a very tiny window: you have never known (and will never know) any time of your life different from this time, you have never known (and will never know) any place different from this place. Getting rid of theatricality, finally, is getting rid of the self, which is what depression sufferers often resort to: suicide.

They also tend to be very fragile. I have tried to bring some hesitancy––some Socratic ignorance, in Harman's parlance––into the Facebook realm by asking questions about the conditions inherent in the statements made by my "friends", and the result has always been that I am handed the cup of hemlock. They scream to the gallery about my mental instability, slather on the derision in a way that would horrify them if they bothered to read what they were blabbing, and generally act as if I'm not worthy of criticizing while never ceasing, themselves, to critically drone on in a most uninformed mode, using words that don't mean what they're being used for (so much for the only thing literalism is good for: definite explanations), and accusing me of saying things I clearly have not said.

The demons have also solidified literalism sociopolitically. If you are a heterosexual white male, you must represent yourself as privileged and never as even slightly disadvantaged compared to anyone. If you are a feminist, you must always represent exactly the third-wave feminist definition of what that means. Never mind that forcing anyone––even a total monster––into definitive boxes like that is a form of violence perfectly on board with the most rampant colonialism; all literal propositions about what one is are violent! Even if you're just talking about yourself!

For instance, analyze the following sentence: "I am a pacifist." Very direct, very literal, and eminently appropriate for the four-line window of limitation on Facebook. It is also an identification with a very laudable political position. It is also a proposition. All propositions are made for the purposes of advocacy. They are also very limiting, allowing for no unspecified deviations from what they establish. The sentence, if left unmodified, is really saying, "I am never anything other than a pacifist, not even one little bit, and that's better than you: now applaud me!" Because who can be unflinchingly pacifist all the time? Being a martial artist, I actually know something about violence, and I see much less of it in the training hall than I do in left political society.

The great thing about real pacifism is that it gets stronger the more you think about it in relation to your own ability to do harm. I am less likely to commit violence now than I was before I started training eleven years ago. This is partly because I am more capable of it than I was then. Learning how/when to fight or flee is inseparable from learning how/when to be calm, because the flight-or-fight response is an inherent animal quality. If you don't use it, it will use you.

"I am a pacifist" is therefore a PERFORMATIVE CONTRADICTION. Got it? Be more specific, please, and don't do quite so much comparing what you are with what you imply others are not.

Nothing represents anything with literal accuracy––not even itself, let alone any group. For instance, being heterosexual doesn't have to mean you've never, ever had any homosexual tendencies. It just means they're probably not a significant aspect of your sexual inclination. Heterosexuality isn't something I "be"; it's something I do: a performance: theatrical. It only seems natural because I'm used to it. It's a role I've had ample opportunity to rehearse.

Hopefully my forswearing of SM means I'll have more time for the performance of being a blogger. We'll see. Till then, take care of yourself, stick your face in real books, and write more books I can be interested in sticking my face in. Maybe I'll try to do the same.