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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Reading of Derrick Jensen's ENDGAME Through Dostoevsky, Conrad and Cormac McCarthy

Derrick Jensen takes on civilization in this Volume 2. Almost 160 years after Dostoevsky first saw it coming. It is very late in the game now.

This edition contains many of his best short novels
This edition is translated with an introduction by David Magarshack and it is wonderful. From NOTES I am quoting:

...that to be too acutely conscious is a disease (p. 111)

...whatever happened, happened in accordance with the normal and fundamental laws of intensified consciousness and by a sort of inertia which is a direct consequence of those laws.....(p. 113)

He is stupid__I am not disputing that. But perhaps the normal man should be stupid. How are you to know? (p. 115)

...And what, pray, does civilization soften in us? All civilization does is to develop in man the many-sidedness of his sensations, and nothing, absolutely nothing more. And through the development of his many-sidedness man, for all we know, may reach the stage when he will find pleasure in bloodshed. This has already happened to him. Have you noticed that the most subtle shedders of blood have almost invariably been most civilized men, compared with whom all the Attilas and Stenka Razins were just innocent babes, and if they are not so outstanding as Attila or Stenka Razin it is because we meet them so often, because they are too ordinary, and because we have got used to them. At any rate, civilization has made man, if not more bloodthirsty, then certainly more hideously and more contemptibly bloodthirsty. In the past he looked on bloodshed as an act of justice and exterminated those he thought necessary to exterminate with a clear conscience; but now we consider bloodshed an abomination and we engage in this abomination more than ever. Which is worse? You'd better decide for yourselves. (p. 128)

He continues to deconstruct science as the cure and details how science will measure desires and limit risk for ready-made solutions. We are experiencing the assembly line manufacturing of desire for us.  All Dostoevsky said has come to pass. 

It is industrial society  that Dostoevsky condemns. And in 1862 abroad for the first time he goes to London and comes face to face for the first time with the industrial society which he regarded as the triumph of Baal. The thing that struck him most was the contrast between the colossal facade of riches, luxury,  and general prosperity of the few and the abject poverty of the many and their coolie-like acquiescence in their fate. In the face of such enormous riches, such immense pride of the spirit of domination, and such triumphant perfection of the creations of the spirit, Dostoevsky wrote in the April, 1863 issue of Vremya, in which he described his impressions of his first visit abroad, the starving soul is humbled and driven to submission, seeking salvation in gin and dissipation and beginning to believe that this is the way things ought to be. Facts oppress the spirit, and if scepticism is born, it is a gloomy, accursed sort of scepticism which seeks salvation in religious fanaticism. (xix)

There follows a description of London to break your heart.

In 1890 Conrad sets sail for The Congo which results in his masterpiece The Heart of Darkness.

1989 St. Martin's Press edition

 And again we have his horrifying novel of Marlowe telling of Kurtz who is a human accumulation of  European civilization. In this edition are five literary reviews of this classic work. Karl - also Conrad's biographer and a psychoanalyst - has written a devastating account of the coming apocalypse which is deconstructed by J. Hillis Miller in a different essay. The accumulation of IVORY to be shipped back to Britain and exported globally for artistic artifacts is chilling to anyone who reads through Foucault on default. We see graphically the intersection of the CUT into capitalism, mercantilism, of DETERRITORIALIZED CAPITALISM that is our state of world economic power today. It is not likely Conrad knew where in the jungle Kurtz was exploring to acquire such massive piles of ivory, more than all the other colonial traders together, operating under the MASK of being there for the purpose of bringing the savages to a civilized social existence. We know though. As Kurtz goes alone in his solitary journeys into the deep darkness of unexplored wild jungle to make contact with other tribes of natives, he is certainly shown the cemeteries of the elephants who make a pilgrimage to their burial grounds as a regular memorial to fondle the bones of their ancestors. How easy to gather up incredible amounts of what Kurtz labels reclaimed ivory in such volume as to amaze those back home in Britain. This is why the journey to him must be made, to import all this loot back home. And it comes at a terrible cost to the natives who have been conquered by the technological demonstration of such weapons as they have never imagined the existence of. Kurtz's dying words are the horror, the horror!  as he at last sees this horror brought into the world. This greed is far beyond the desire for the forbidden fruit in Eden. The destruction of a continent, the enslavement of its people, all for artifacts to be carved from the ivory over the dead bodies of elephants. And now these elephants plundered for the last 160 years are going extinct. 

This is Dostoevsky's vision of the future he sees. We are living it now, the Congo worse than it ever was, the world exploited and depleted.

Dostoevsky saw the unimaginable riches of the earth that could and would be exploited for world industrialization. 

Dostoevsky was a liberal before he stood waiting in front of the firing squad only to be part of a "joke." He was deported to Siberia to labor in a prison. The initial beginning of The Gulags.

When he served his time and returned to Russia he was no longer a liberal thinker. 

As ZIZEK has told us:
Liberal thinking contains the poison pill of its own destruction.

Liberalism teaches us to tolerate the intolerable.

Obama and Clinton were intolerable and INVISIBLE.

This is what made Trump more acceptable to ZIZEK and to me.
I do like the MESSAGE of the MEDIUM of the Trump administration. Eyes have been opened and are being opened every day as he is so outrageous that ultimately he offends and enrages everyone last one of us. 

It is a pleasure. 

The Holocaust of North American Natives Beginning in 1849
BLOOD MERIDIAN is Cormac McCarthy's homage to Heart of Darkness. Its theme, its hidden apocalypse, and its characters. Conrad felt maybe he had symbolized Kurtz too much. McCarthy says no no a thousand times no and makes Judge Holden so excessive, so symbolic, so incredible, that Kurtz begins to seem rather normal.
The American has overreached the British monster.
Blood Meridian begins in 1849 when the American Government seeking to extend its reach to California now that gold has been discovered. The Gold Rush is to begin but it must have a clear  journey from east to west without Native Americans to impede it. The US government is paying $100 per single scalp to clean them out. It will be a 30,000,000 Holocaust, far beyond anything Hitler imagined or did to the Jews. It has been enfolded into amnesia in American history. At the end of it there remained 300,000 Native Americans herded onto reservations. Let's think of them as sanctuaries which is where many wild animals are now being transported to before all can go extinct. The ARK has been broken up into fragments scattered all over the world. Gone is the web of elephant ancestor memories, a Native American culture rich and different from the industrialized white man, and is just the stepping stone for a life of circumscribed imprisonment until the land is wanted for the exploitation of its riches. People will be dispossessed as will the wild animals.McCarthy ends his novel in 1862 and we see a depraved barbarian society of the west rivaling that of Dostoevsky's London in the same year. 
More horror. 

Anyone who disputes Jensen's call for the end of civilization needs to rethink their premises about any goodness to be preserved in this ongoing atrocity and horror of apocalypse. 

One is reminded of Isaiah and Jeremiah warning the Israelites to not defy the Assyrians at this time.

And while Rome burns we fiddle around.