Author Topic: Criticism of the BIP  (Read 10415 times)

Dr. Paes

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Criticism of the BIP
« on: June 17, 2008, 07:42:10 am »
This from Doloras LaPicho from http://chaosmarxism.blogspot.com/.


Quote
Idealism = elitism = just another treehouse club
The people at PrincipiaDiscordia.com (and if you haven't read the Principia yet, you are made of lose and fail) have an interesting new manifesto called Black Iron Prison (taking a phrase from P. K. Dick, to describe the chains of ideology, pretence identities and bad habits which prop up existing exploitative power strucutres.). It's a fun read, but annoyingly it has pretty much the same failing as virtually any "radical cultural product" in this day and age - it is generally spot on about the problem, but falls down on the solutions. While it makes a clarion call for people to throw out their useless and self-limiting identities, it never challenges its own presuppositions - idealism coupled with elitism, the self-justifying ideology (what a Scientologist would call a "service facsimile") of the modern "cultural technician" classes. I quote:

    What you have to remember is that if the grazing sheep can see you then so can the bad guys. If you've found a loophole then you've shown them it and you can bet your sorry ass that they'll be busy sealing it up just as you're busy decomposing in an unmarked grave, all the while fertilising the grass that the sheep are fed.

    The more obvious you become the more attention you will draw so burn the Che Guevara teeshirt and buy something with Hugo Boss written on it. Tear down the burning buddhist posters and get rid of the CND bumper stickers. Keep your books under the bed. If you really want to accomplish something then your best bet is to work undercover. Jumping on a soapbox and spreading the gospel is not how you get the message across, it's how you end up in jail. Do not subscribe to subversive magazines. Do not turn up at demos and rallys, all their operatives mugshots are on federal databases an, even worse, they achieve approximately nothing. Make no mistake, now that you've slipped your chain they're looking for you. Don't make it easy for them.



So the revolutionaries of the new era will concentrate on keeping their heads down? Interestingly from a manifesto which approvingly discussed shucking off pretence identities a few pages earlier, the personal safety and integrity of the Newly Enlightened Discordian seems to be the main priority here, rather than an attempt to use this enlightenment to affect the material world. "Yes, YOU are now the Newly Enlightened and are much better than pathetic mewling sheep! So for Eris's sake don't actually do anything except find a new peer group to swap recipes!!!"

In fact, the use of the word "sheep" shows a contempt for the huge majority of people in the material world - that is, directly the opposite of Orwell's and Chaos Marxism's dictum that "if there is hope, it lies in the proles". Note the historically inaccurate assertion (repeated by the corporate media so often that it's become common sense) that "demos never changed anything". The fact is that the mass demonstration is the only actual real political/memetic activism that your average working stiff has any chance to get involved with. It's not as useful as the mass strike, but it's something rather than nothing. Letting the ideal be the enemy of the possible is a sure road to impotence - and as for the attitude that anything that ordinary people can do is ipso facto a useless waste of time, well, I don't think I need to even comment further.

And is martyrdom all bad, anyway? Jesus was nailed up, yes, Ché was pumped full of bullets and displayed, but they are now bad-ass memes of various levels of immortality, and you won't be if you stay in hiding. What do you want - to change material reality or just give yourself a new identity, a new lifestyle, a new religion which says it's not a religion?

But of course the writer of these words specifically says that doing mass work is a waste of time:

    You CAN NOT bring the MACHINE™ down. You can't even slow it down. What you can do is very slowly and unobtrusively begin to rearrange the basic components. We will refer to these as "widgets" and "sprockets". If widget A and sprocket B combine to exert societal influence C on the stinking morass known collectively as "humanity", then it stands to reason that the MACHINE™ can be reprogrammed at a very basic level and in very small increments. You waste your time dreaming of how to effect such a change on a global, national, or regional scale (the impossibility of which, I might add, keeps you in your perpetual state of blissful apathy), dreaming of assembling a group of like-minded fellows who will march with you to the very gates of the ivory tower whereupon those who have misled and exploited you will be cast down upon the parapets.



This is a counsel of despair, impotence, and magical thinking (directly the opposite of MAGICKAL thinking). To defeat the Black Iron Prison, then, the important thing is to hide, form a secret, quasi-conspiratorial network of people who think like you... and do your cultural activism / memetics / magic so that the big guns of Corporate Brainwashing will slowly but surely start to put out the message you like. Or, in summary: we are the tiny enlightened elite who are going to save the world, by hiding and doing our superhero stuff behind the scenes, by manipulating the structures of oppression rather than trying to throw them down. What, really, is the difference between this and getting a job in academia, advertising or the entertainment multinationals - i.e giving up altogether?

I get angry at so-called "Marxists" who act like that, and I'm not going to take it from Discordians either. It's also the same nonsense that that guy who reckons he's Neo from the Matrix peddles - don't destroy the Matrix, but make it kindlier for the pathetic sheep who will never be real individuals, like us. It's a counsel of despair, of making the best of things for yourself, of believing that you are better and deserve better than people who haven't had the same experiences you have. It's not an antidote to apathy, it's a set of ideas which will make you feel justified in smug apathy, in working the system for whatever material privileges you can get, and then getting together with your cool buddies on evenings and weekends to be cowboys, anarchists, Zen archers, whatever.

A basic axiom of Marxism (which should go in the CM aphorisms) is that only the conscious mass action of the huge worldwide majority will change anything. Not a secret elite of memetic superheroes. We can't make that happen by hiding and manipulating. Nor can we do that by clowning and phrasemongering, by going on demos just for the sake of going on demos - that's just another fake identity, and the BIP writers are right to point that out. (My criticism of most Marxist and anarchist sects is that they act according to the same principles for which I criticse the BIP writers - they use ritualised and useless forms of "political activism" as attempts to shore up their self-image and give them acceptable social and leisure opportunities, rather than actually trying to change the world, i.e. change mass consciousness.)

Ben Watson says, and CM agrees, that a revolution will mean the people who don't have to lie to make their living taking over. The cultural technician class (99% of the people you'll see writing blogs or websites, in other words) overwhelmingly make their living by using memetic tools to spread someone else's toxic ideology. It's precisely because of that that your bus driver is far, FAR more likely to make an effective revolutionary memetician and political activist than the cool guy you met on the internet who reads all the same cool books as you do.

One final point: the MACHINE™ (I may have to start using this shorthand) has only existed for about 100 years now, only in the time of universal suffrage and a mass consumer economy. Before then, there was no point in controlling working people's minds because no-one cared what they thought, just whether they worked. What's more, the MACHINE™ only exists because people go to work every day and make it work. To an enquiring mind, this should point out that the MACHINE™ is not the omnipresent mechanism of control that the BIP writers make it out to be - sadly, that's exactly the "common sense" that thirty years of the postmodernism academy has imposed on virtually the entire culturally-trained class. If you're going to challenge all the mind-forg'd manacles, how about starting with the assumption that capitalist structures of domination and oppression which have existed in their modern form for only 150 maximum are somehow eternal and essential features of human nature? The main proof that the future can be different is that the past was different. Of course individuals can't change it. So you'd better either think of some way of getting past your monadic, bourgeois, individualist identity - or just give up and find a good drug/religion/sports team to follow.

NOTE: The last time I wrote something like this I got hate-mail. I often sound more harsh and nasty than I mean to, so any Discordians reading this, please be assured that this is supposed to be friendly criticism and the opening of a dialogue.



Also, Welcome to the boards Doloras.

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2008, 10:12:29 am »
Quote
What you have to remember is that if the grazing sheep can see you then so can the bad guys. If you've found a loophole then you've shown them it and you can bet your sorry ass that they'll be busy sealing it up just as you're busy decomposing in an unmarked grave, all the while fertilising the grass that the sheep are fed.

    The more obvious you become the more attention you will draw so burn the Che Guevara teeshirt and buy something with Hugo Boss written on it. Tear down the burning buddhist posters and get rid of the CND bumper stickers. Keep your books under the bed. If you really want to accomplish something then your best bet is to work undercover. Jumping on a soapbox and spreading the gospel is not how you get the message across, it's how you end up in jail. Do not subscribe to subversive magazines. Do not turn up at demos and rallys, all their operatives mugshots are on federal databases an, even worse, they achieve approximately nothing. Make no mistake, now that you've slipped your chain they're looking for you. Don't make it easy for them.

WTF does that have to do with BIP? I wrote that didn't I?
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2008, 11:01:11 am »
Wow, I'm going to have to put aside an hour to rip this apart when I get home. Talk about missing the point....
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2008, 11:22:19 am »
Another would be revolutionary, obsessing over the "not part of the solution" meme ?  :lulz:
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2008, 01:50:41 pm »
I think I see one big problem.  She writes the following in her critique:

Quote
One final point: the MACHINE™ (I may have to start using this shorthand) has only existed for about 100 years now, only in the time of universal suffrage and a mass consumer economy.

Only 100 years?  I'd argue that as long as there has been civilizations, societies, culture, there has been a MACHINEtm.  The MACHINEtm does not require actual mechanization to exist.  It merely needs a mass collective of humanity in order for it to coalesce and be given birth. 

Otherwise, this seems to be the usual critique of the BIP being too dark or too defeatist, etc., etc.  But it's because she doesn't get it.  The first step is for the individual to take control of the individual.  An individual can't hope to have any impact on society if they don't take care of themselves first.

It's like I said back when we were putting this thing together.  Those armed with themselves have the best shot at making it.  It's poignant because it's true. 

Cynicism is a blank check for failure.

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2008, 02:35:56 pm »
Yeah - she missed the point of  "blending in" - it's not keeping one's head down that's the point, it's not bringing attention to oneself in order to more easily subvert. The authorities are going to profile. It's the way they work. If you LOOK like a terrorist or a commie or a hippie, they'll treat you as such and limit what actions can be taken. In order to avoid this limitation, blending in to the crowd is essential for no other reason than to NOT end up as the martyr she seems to feel is necessary. I for one would like to be around to see how it all works out, rather than be dead but idolized (and almost inevitably have my message twisted by others - how many have died in the name of Jesus?).

Also, I didn't realize we were required to offer solutions. What solutions other than realizing the bars are there are there? Without personal knowlege (which RWHN touches on) one cannot affect change, either on a personal level or a societal level. The BIP addresses ways to recognize limitations on the personal level and encourages self-examination and self-knowlege. From that point, it becomes possible to understand what "bars" others are limited by and then exploit those limitations to affect change on a broader scale.

I also agree with RWHN about the MACHINEtm. It's a concept more than a part of the military-industrial complex. It's the forces in power that use oppression to maintain that power. The way they maintain that power is the MACHINEtm. All the laws and restrictions that are used to keep the balance of power steady are the MACHINEtm, whenever and whatever those laws happen to be. It's not just laws and ordinances, though. It's also the culture that allows those laws to exist, that supports those laws as reflective of the society that employs them.

We're not the revolutionary martyrs that she seems to expect or want us to be. We're just trying to get people to take the first step of seeing how they exist, what their individual limitations are. Once that first step is taken, it's up to the individual to decide where the second step and all the ones after it are to go. I personally have zero desire to tell someone what they should do - that just introduces ME as a bar in their BIP and defeats the whole "think for yourself" aspect that is the true purpose of the whole concept (IMO).
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2008, 04:40:10 pm »
Yeah, I think she's right in some ways and wrong in some ways. Since I first read the BIP, I've been vocal about the elitist undertones in it, but (not to toot my own horn) I think I did a pretty good job of watering that down in my edit of the booklet.

Other than that,

Quote
To defeat the Black Iron Prison, then, the important thing is to hide, form a secret, quasi-conspiratorial network of people who think like you... and do your cultural activism / memetics / magic so that the big guns of Corporate Brainwashing will slowly but surely start to put out the message you like. Or, in summary: we are the tiny enlightened elite who are going to save the world, by hiding and doing our superhero stuff behind the scenes, by manipulating the structures of oppression rather than trying to throw them down. What, really, is the difference between this and getting a job in academia, advertising or the entertainment multinationals - i.e giving up altogether?

Bah, I have no little interest in changing the world*. I just want to change my neighborhood. To me, it's about getting out of the lose/lose formula which consumes modern activism and addressing the things that are on my plane. I want to assemble a cabal of likeminded people because that's a better personal world than one where I'm a lone gun, putting up posters and nonsense for (simply) my own amusement.


Quote
(My criticism of most Marxist and anarchist sects is that they act according to the same principles for which I criticse the BIP writers - they use ritualised and useless forms of "political activism" as attempts to shore up their self-image and give them acceptable social and leisure opportunities, rather than actually trying to change the world, i.e. change mass consciousness.)

Whaaaat?

I know that putting up one-line-meme-bombs is not going to change the world. But it is going to change my environment, and my experience of my environment. Rearrange the machine locally. I put jokes up on trees, and the pedestrians smile more. Yeah, I'm not affecting Big Brother. But that wasn't my goal anyway.

Quote
Ben Watson says, and CM agrees, that a revolution will mean the people who don't have to lie to make their living taking over. The cultural technician class (99% of the people you'll see writing blogs or websites, in other words) overwhelmingly make their living by using memetic tools to spread someone else's toxic ideology. It's precisely because of that that your bus driver is far, FAR more likely to make an effective revolutionary memetician and political activist than the cool guy you met on the internet who reads all the same cool books as you do.

heh, yeah, I think she's missing the point. Because what she's complaining about us missing is actually something we've addressed. One of the reasons you should be aware that you're in a prison is so that you can critically evaluate your ideology and make sure you really DO stand behind it. Not so that you can realize you're One Of Us and spew our toxic ideology. I think LaPicho is marginalizing the wrong people. We're not the revolutionaries. But we ARE the bus drivers and random pedestrians. :p




* Edited to add: I want to change the world. I just don't see any evidence that I can change more than my environment. And I personally know a hell of a lot of burned out, cynical revolutionaries. They've spent years banging their fists on the walls of the institution and all they got was a cynical, black sheep attitude and a lousy Che Guevara T-shirt.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2008, 05:51:42 pm by Professor Cramulus »

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2008, 04:46:16 pm »
I also get a very, very distinct feeling she hasn't actually spent much time here on peedycom, and that she would probably have a good time if she wasn't trying to make us look like asshats. (The primary reason for this is, that most of the people here do a good enough job of that without her help.)
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2008, 04:53:36 pm »
Quote
What, really, is the difference between this and getting a job in academia, advertising or the entertainment multinationals - i.e giving up altogether?

I thought the whole point of keeping your head down and blending in would be to infiltrate these institutions. It’s much easier to effect change within a system, you cant put a wrench in the gears if you never get near the MACHINEtm  in the first place.  And furthermore I would love to see more Discordians in advertising, because here’s what we get:


Quote
(My criticism of most Marxist and anarchist sects is that they act according to the same principles for which I criticse the BIP writers - they use ritualised and useless forms of "political activism" as attempts to shore up their self-image and give them acceptable social and leisure opportunities, rather than actually trying to change the world, i.e. change mass consciousness.)

The true way to change mass consciousness is in something that will reach the masses. –i.e.- Mass Media, and through advertising and another way to get the message out is careful marketing. You don’t necessarily have to be selling anything other than your Meme. The subtle art of knowing when, where and how to spread your message is key though. You cannot just storm the streets, and bullhorn people, or you’ll end up like Alex Jones. (No one really takes him seriously.)

And I like the idea of acting locally. You can change the world... one joke poster at a time.  :wink:
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2008, 05:10:05 pm »
Quote
What, really, is the difference between this and getting a job in academia, advertising or the entertainment multinationals - i.e giving up altogether?

I thought the whole point of keeping your head down and blending in would be to infiltrate these institutions. It’s much easier to effect change within a system, you cant put a wrench in the gears if you never get near the MACHINEtm  in the first place. 

Nail on the head. There's no difference. In fact, it's much easier to change the Machine as a member of the institution than by throwing rotten fruit at it.

I can think of a dozen revolutions that have done nothing to effectively change world.
But I can think of a hundred ad campaigns and movies that have been 100% effective.

Why is that "giving up all together?" I don't believe that change only happens by revolutions. It's a romantic idea, sure, but get with the times. Nobody I know is Che or Jesus. And most of those people trying to be Che get marginalized, get swept under the rug, get forgotten. Revolutionaries rock the boat, and they get thrown off. That's how the Machine works. Much better to be the guy with the oar than to be the guy standing up and shouting.

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 05:13:10 pm »
I guess I'm not going to try to rip it apart, you guys all beat me to it. I wonder if she's reading this.
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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2008, 05:20:28 pm »
I hope so.

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2008, 05:24:11 pm »
if not, we should link her to it. Only fair.

I don't think her criticism is bad, I just think it's off-base. I believe she thinks we're trying to manufacture revolutionaries, but are creating impotent revolutionaries because we eschew the traditional concept of revolution. Well funk dat! We're not friggin' Marxists for chrissake!  :p

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #13 on: June 17, 2008, 05:36:43 pm »
:mittens: for excellent criticism

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Re: Criticism of the BIP
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2008, 06:11:39 pm »
if not, we should link her to it. Only fair.

I don't think her criticism is bad, I just think it's off-base. I believe she thinks we're trying to manufacture revolutionaries, but are creating impotent revolutionaries because we eschew the traditional concept of revolution. Well funk dat! We're not friggin' Marxists for chrissake!  :p

Agreed 100%
People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution.

Arguing with a Unitarian Universalist is like mud wrestling a pig. Pretty soon you realize the pig likes it.