Sur le pouvoir

That you should not exert power or have control in your life was one of the main themes of Reeducation. I have explained to myself before, in numerous posts on Reeducation and the relevant comments threads, why this is a fallacy. I still have a bad habit of relinquishing power. Relinquishing power means neglecting the self, which causes fear. In Reeducation, legitimate fear is reencoded as lack of faith, and fear without object is anxiety, which causes that dreadest of all dread diseases, back pain. At the center of this labyrinth of Banes, however, is their cause: the renunciation of power. I spent a day reconquering power and in doing so vanquished many Banes. Wednesdays are excellent days. They are dedicated to Iansan, who rules the winds, and Reeducation is a Christian and I am not.


41 thoughts on “Sur le pouvoir

  1. Haha! Iansan! Good one. And here was I thinking that Ian san was some kind of Japanese Englishman.

    Yeah, the giving up of power is an interesting one. We all do it, of course, because it is just too tiring to go against the tide all the time. Nobody is that much of an individual. The thing to do is to work out when it is CRUCIAL to go against the tide or when one can just cruise a little, and save energy. Once again, the significant element is energy.

  2. Thinking a bit more on what I said this morning, one of the defining aspects of the bully is that he lacks a sense of self. Presumedly, we are all equipped with a sense of self, biologically, but there is a certain sense in which the bully loses theirs, along the way. Maybe it is through obsessive rule-following in order to please a significant other, or it could be lost in the pursuit of an extreme form of masculinity which prescribes the hardening and deadening of feelings within. It may be lost through Christian ascetic practices, or through ascetic practices at work. In any case, the self is lost, and this leaves the bully lonely, cold, profoundly empty. So, the bully seeks to find a self. He decides he is “in love” or that he is overcome by feelings of a charitable nature. In any case, his marauding nature goes a-huntin in search of a self. He meets someone who still has a self, and then he wants to unite with them in “love” or he wants to “save them” from the freedom that they find so natural and so broad.

    To subjugate a self — that is the bully’s powerful motivation. As a wolf that has starved for much of the winter is driven to feed, so the bully is driven to find and dominate a self.

    And it seems only right to him. After all, what Deity, what system of society, would deprive a human being of a self, thus locking him into empty caverns of loneliness and emptiness, without a sense of human warmth to make life pleasant and meaningful?

    The bully feels that it can’t be wrong to find and dominate a self, because what really feels wrong is this agonising self of loneliness — this sense of not having a self, at all.

    So, the bully sets out to dominate, and every realisation by the victim as to what is happening to them produces a dangerous rebuff. And it feels excruciatingly painful to the bully, for every action of self defence from the victim is a form of denying him a self, a symbolic gesture (in the bully’s mind) which seems to say, “You don’t deserve a self. You can’t have what other humans have. You are lesser than all other humans!”

    This makes the bully angry and upset. “Why did the victim suddenly appear out of the blue and assault me in this way?” he asks himself. “It isn’t fair how I am treated, when all that I wanted to do was to offer my love and charity!”

  3. OMG I am going to have to read about those Klippoths!

    My X claimed to know Magick and to have given it up after a bad experience (which he would not describe) due to operating on his own behalf.

    This: “Why did the victim suddenly appear out of the blue and assault me in this way?” he asks himself. “It isn’t fair how I am treated, when all that I wanted to do was to offer my love and charity!” was / is what he says to people who cross him, and he really, really believes it, really feels that way.

    When we first started talking, I said that I was not sure he and I would really get along as more than friends – lots of differences in way of life, interests, goals. He said “I will become what you are; I always do that in relationships; I am interested in you because I too want to move in the direction you are going.” I found this odd. When my youngest and most observant brother met him, he said, “That man is a chameleon. You have to know that.” I did not see it – still do not entirely – but it is consonant with what he himself had said, “I will become what you are.”

  4. The klippoths thing is related to Tani Jantsang’s interest group. That woman’s parents are Tatars and the woman herself had a libertarian capitalist streak which sometimes can be a mean streak, but she’s generally quite pleasant.

  5. Very interesting – Klippoths – although the relevant religion is really unfamiliar to me. I know the adherents of these old religions believe in doing their will, which is refreshing.

    It is really amazing to me how Reeducation wanted one to “take care of oneself” but also relinquish power. The official theory, of course, was that one should only relinquish power over things one could not control anyway, but the practice was, one should learn to redefine oneself as powerless, helpless. Taking care of business and being an adult was considered to be “overfunctioning.” All of this was of course to bind one to Reeducation, to give it one’s self.

    And of course, now that I am thinking of Klippoths, I realize once again I should reread Tolkien, for pop culture, on the One Ring and the Nazguls – the ring that binds the others in the land of darkness, like zombies. *That* was Reeducation and its slogans were like wicked charms.

  6. P.S. Reeducation’s “you have no power!” “only flawed people believe they have power!” “if you believe you have power you must pray to God to remove from you this defect of character!” is SUCH amazing b.s.

    If one has no power then one must give up. (I used to ask Reeducation how, if I was to have no power, it expected me to transport myself through the city, acquire things to eat, etc. – and it could not answer.)

  7. And also – trying to shut down power is utterly disabling. It fogs the mind.

    Earlier J was talking about the knockout – wearing an opponent down so you can knock them out – and doing the power shutoff was like doing a self-knockout. Also like literally turning off the lights.

  8. And: trying to claim one is powerless creates stress, which creates fatigue, which is disorienting, and very disempowering.

  9. Well doesn’t it seem that they were either trying to turn you into a klippoth (for want of a better word) or more likely, trying to get you to embrace your klippoth nature, rather than trying to push yourself to be something more?

    Here is the particular article I found most useful.

    But, I think the article needs to be read as a phenomenological description rather than as a religious view.

  10. The assumption, it seems, was that Klippoth-ness was the basic nature of people? … ? or that, if one had come to Reeducation, one must be a Klippoth.

    [Hm. My infamous X has Klippoth-like characteristics but has claimed to believe he is a fully realized Nietzchean Übermensch. Klippoths, it seems, see things at 180 degree turns, or through the looking glass … this was the case in Reeducation, and it seems to be a key element in manipulation. (It seems that a good deception technique is to understand a phenomenon, and yet ascribe it to the wrong source.)]

  11. I think the theory goes this way: If you are out of touch with your feelings, due to the way you have been brought up to ignore them, then your feelings do not inform your rational processes. So, you don’t do subtle shifts, or subtle adjustments in relation to stimuli. The best you can do is to detect something broadly termed as “difference”. Then, once you have detected this quality of difference, you need to decide whether it belongs in the good or bad categories (there are only two). So, you see someone behaving differently and you either conclude that it is because they are trying to make themselves superior to you, or that they are naturally inferior to you. Once you’ve decided which of these it is, you can either aim to emulate the other person (in their superiority) or you can aim to condemn and eliminate the other person (because the person disrupts your sense of what is ‘normal’ by acting differently). I think that the klippoth (or for the sake of the argument, lets call him Nietzschean overman) doesn’t really mind which way he reacts. Niether reaction manages to eliminate the Nietzschean overman’s internal pain and sense of lack for very long. Any reaction is just a distraction from himself. But putting oneself in intellectual judgment over another, and being the arbiter of their fate (for however long) is a delight.

  12. I meant “for very long” not “very lock”

    And also, do you have an example of attribution of a phenomenon to the wrong source? I think you may be on to something there.

  13. Anyway, I was thinking about that other intellectual problem that crops up for me from time to time — postmodernism.

    I’ve always wondered why, you know, it is central to my discipline of English, and yet I can honestly say that at the age of 39, and having been exposed to it for twenty years, I have no EMOTIONAL sense of what it is about. Sure, I can describe it intellectually — but what is more advanced about it than randomnly generated computer screed or a thousand monkeys typing on typewriters for a thousand years, I do not actually know.

    So let me venture this guess. Supposing it has something to do with what reeducation was trying to do for you, and with what klippoths are supposed to be like (always viewing things in oppositional terms, and trying to absolve a perpetual inner discomfort through a sudden burst of intellectual effort which is designed to impress)?

    Or to put the problem in a different light, why is it that it is almost reflexive for someone who calls themselves postmodernist to feel that it is rude to point out samenesses and differences in the empirical world around us, and yet they overtly embrace Derrida’s concept of “Differance”?

    Well, I think there is a salvation mechanism here, which is intended to operate on the basis of alleviating the klippoth from its duty to compare and contrast and come out on top. “Difference,” sayeth Derrida, “is like a sea of change.” A klippoth cannot give in to its bodily impressions (and desires) because it is eternally at war with them, intellectually. “Try to feel the titillation of this intellectual sea of change, flowing all around you. Give it to it! Roll over and let me tickle you upon your bell!”

    So this would be a huge relief to the klippoth, who is forever bent on judging and condemning, by applying standards of superiority or inferiority to everything. They can finally give up on this infernal task of trying to make themselves into moral and intellectual supermen. They can accept reality “as it is” — (although, to be honest, not really quite as it is, because they are accepting an intellectualisation or abstracting of reality, rather than a reality with empirically variable aspects which appeal on the basis of a relationship to one’s own experiences and feelings.)

    Anyway, that could be where the “give up on your own power” and “stop trying to be a god” and “just accept your limitations” comes in. It is designed to help a particular kind of person who is at war with their own inner impulses.

  14. Attribution to wrong source: well, as we know, bullies do not acknowledge their own behavior, but claim that they are themselves being bullied.

    What I have noticed about both bullies and other kinds of psychic vampires is that they can be very acute analysts of social or psychological phenomena, or interpersonal dynamics. They can see a phenomenon or a pattern with nearly uncanny clarity, but with one twist: they attribute cause or locate villainy where it does not in fact belong. It means deflecting responsibility from themselves, of course, if they are among the players, and/or projecting responsibility they bear into someone else, or simply locating it in a person or other entity that represents a threat or a challenge to them.

    (A related, though less sophisticated thing bullies will do is rescue someone who is being bullied by someone else so that they can set themselves up as a non-bully, and then go on to bully that person who will not realize what is happening as quickly as they might because they have by now encoded the bully as a non-bully. Politicians of course do this rhetorically all the time.)

  15. Nietzchean overman – is not just a ‘klippoth’, right? Isn’t the overman supposed to be more fully realized than the ‘herd’, not less so?

  16. They can see a phenomenon or a pattern with nearly uncanny clarity, but with one twist: they attribute cause or locate villainy where it does not in fact belong.

    Yes– like the libertarian capitalist who blames all the unfairness in the world on “leftists”. That is a very common dodge!

    I think you are right, in general, about the other things, too. ie, “Let me rescue you from the bully…” sayeth the bully no 2.

    But actually what I think bullies have a sense of is not really the material reality of what is actually taking place around them, but rather something else: They get an impression of PEOPLE’S REACTIONS to the victim/subject at hand, and they form their own positions on the basis of this sense. But they don’t really understand WHY people are reacting in a particular way, and they are not interested in finding that out. Why? — because their real interest in not in knowledge but in power (and this is an important distinction to make).

  17. Nietzchean overman – is not just a ‘klippoth’, right? Isn’t the overman supposed to be more fully realized than the ‘herd’, not less so?

    I was being wry.

    Actually in the way that Nietzsche meant it, yes, the overman (if the overman is indeed to be a person, and not rather a concept of going beyond oneself, as I take it to be) would be more fully realised.

    But, having spent some time with online Nietzscheans, and having seen that they are always going for power rather than for knowledge (and, as Nietzsche himself points out, there is a complexity of relationship between the two things and it is not as simple as opting for one or the other), I have determined that most online “Nietzscheans” are nothing else but klippoths.

  18. What I meant is that if you choose power over knowledge (on principle or by habit) then eventually you deaden that lively childlike instinct of curiousity towards the world. This is a killing of the feelings, which turns one into a klippoth.

  19. IRL Nietzcheans are also often klippoths, and are often primarily interested in power. Nietzche himself seems to be more interesting.

    On bullies, this is really key: “They get an impression of PEOPLE’S REACTIONS to the victim/subject at hand, and they form their own positions on the basis of this sense. But they don’t really understand WHY people are reacting in a particular way, and they are not interested in finding that out. Why? — because their real interest in not in knowledge but in power (and this is an important distinction to make).”

    Precisely. My X again: he kept saying he was an ‘informavore,’ meaning he sought and kept on mental file all the information / observations on people and events he could gather, for possible future reference or use. And it was precisely peoples’ reactions (not facts) he was after, as one could see by observing him in the process of gathering his information. And it was for the purpose of exerting power … which in his methodology depended precisely upon *not* having accurate knowledge, because his form of power was based on distorting information and himself believing in the distortions (which were really just subordination of facts to the more important element which was peoples’ reactions).

  20. Postmodernism – a relief I suppose if you believe modernism to be as flat as some say it is?

    I.E. if modernism is white, male, progress, hygiene, etc. then what that excludes, but which still exists within modernity, is the postmodern …

    But I don’t like that schema. Modernity I would say is far more multifaceted, and modernity at the margins at least is ‘combined and uneven’ (my Marxian leanings are now showing). These are my quick thoughts at midnight.

  21. (which were really just subordination of facts to the more important element which was peoples’ reactions).

    Right! This is also what I have experienced — and more than a few times, too. I suppose it can be exhilirating to take this approach to reality, at times. One flies by the seat of one’s pants and feels above those ponderous persons who are actually doing something so historically backwards as seeking knowledge. (<——–I’m being wry.) “Look at them with their advanced degrees, plodding away to get recognition, whereas I have a secret inroad into power, and do not need to put in the work!” — the klippoth proclaims. Or “”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

  22. ..Only what I was going to say is that knowledge trumps this approach to power. For I, too, study these power mongers, and I have the advantage in that my assessment of them is accurate AND I’m not afraid to act on what I see.

  23. This then is why klippoths are such objects of intellectual and emotional fascination. There was one in my undergraduate study group and we were always trying to figure her out (we never did, but the conversations were interesting). And various people tried, over the years, to study my X, until they just got tired and said, “whatever.”

    Now there is a klippoth in one of my departments and those who have not tangled with one such before are studying the phenomenon. When asked I just say “klippoth – don’t doubt it and don’t engage deeply, then you won’t have to worry.” But some have more invested in him than I do, so they do engage, and this causes them to keep studying. While they study his latest exploit, he goes and does something new for them to study.

    Some klippoths can be really fascinating intellectually – like a baroque poem or frieze.

  24. I.E. if modernism is white, male, progress, hygiene, etc. then what that excludes, but which still exists within modernity, is the postmodern …

    Yes– but was Modernism that way?

    So you are giving me Lyotard’s idea of postmodernism here, and still what prickles me is that I do not see how embracing postmodernism enables us to embrace difference. I think that what it does (at best) is that it dulls our reactions to difference, making us less judgmental (maybe less sure of our judgements?) But, I can say from experience that I have never encountered either a Modernist of a Postmodernist who is open to discussing with me my own experiences of the world, and getting to know me, in relation to these experiences. Rather, they have already defined me as something (some ‘thing’) to be overcome, even before they have met me. Me and my experiences belong to the past, because of the way that those who embrace the newest mode of cool wish to define me.
    So, I have come to see these movements — but above all postmodernism, being a shriller — [“cooler”]– version of moderism) as very much NOT a salvation mechanism except for those who are very much unlike me.

  25. Yeah I don’t know why the klippoths can be so intriguing. Perhaps it is the lure of their thanatos. We are intrigued by the smell of death. However, in engaging with them, we are engaging with death — and that is not without some risk.

  26. It could be the lure of thanatos but I also think people really do not understand what they are like / do not understand how they can actually be like that.
    Once they do, they’ve had it, but it as though if you have glimpsed one, you have to look it in the face or it will continue to dog you.

    And yes – it is quite amazing how uncomprehending and taken off guard klippoths are if one is armed with knowledge, and how surprised if one is willing to act.

  27. I don’t think postmodernism enables us to embrace difference but to trivialize it. If you are from the colonial world then you are from a different space of modernity and, of course, you are from a ‘combined and uneven’ place. It is a whole other gestalt and a much thicker world than the European. Of course the ‘first world’ types want to consign it to the past – they do not want to see what they have done – just as they want to get rid of Natives, etc. But it amazes me that people you know think the colonial world is a thing of the past – are then not aware of what is happening in the news right now? !

  28. Of course the ‘first world’ types want to consign it to the past – they do not want to see what they have done – just as they want to get rid of Natives, etc. But it amazes me that people you know think the colonial world is a thing of the past – are then not aware of what is happening in the news right now? !

    Heh. Yes, but they use such an intricate dodge to assert what they do. It’s not like they make statements directly denying the material world and what it is in it, or something. Rather, they employ klippoth prowess. Here’s how it plays out:

    Me: “What about the current colonial invasions of Iraq and elsewhere?”

    Postmodernist klippoth: “I’m surprised you would mention that to us directly. These things are totally appalling, and you should be ashamed of yourself to bring these things to our attention, when everybody knows how appalling they are.”

    Me: “Oh yes, I see. A terrible faux pas I have made, which certainly reflects back poorly upon me. I really ought to shut up now and sink back into my hole. But before I do, what are your solutions to this appalling travesty of modern day colonialism?”

    Postmodernist klippoth: “Everybody knows what they are. The world is a terribly violent place, and the only reason you are speaking up about it is because you have a terribly violent nature in you. We are all doing our best to remedy the problems of the world, but it needs a sophisticated approach, and not the terribly violent one that you are taking because of your directness. It only hurts people and makes them feel bad.”

    Me: “So what is to be done about the present day colonialism then?’

    Postmodernist klippoth: {blocking his ears} “We need to create safe places. There are no safe places in the material world, because it is a fallen world. Evil!Evil! I say. So we need to purify our hearts for the coming millenial era. Self improvement is the key, and I can tell that you, my dear friend, have a long way to go with that. I will try to help you purify your mind by censuring those aggressive things you say whenever you try to draw before my eyes or speak before my ears aspects that pertain to material reality. It is all evil. And censuring you is the best thing I can do to help you along your way!”

    Me: “Thankyou postmodernist klippoth! Mine eyes and ears have been opened now!”

  29. Anyway, one of the reasons why it could surprise them if you walk away is because for them everything is image. So, they think, “She can’t walk away because I’m holding her image to ransom. She needs my approval, before I’ll let her go!”

    But the person they’re intent on bullying says, “It’s just an image — and moreover not even an accurate one! They can hold it for ransom as long as they like, because my life is still my own.”

  30. “Post-modernism is neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalism is post-modernism.”

    Yes — their behaviour seems to silence people who are critical of empire building and who draw a line of difference between western and non-western. The unspoken strategy seems to be to subsume dissent into an overall western cultural and philosophical framework, by implying that it is unconscionable to point out any problems with it.

  31. On postmodernists – yes.

    On bullies – yes. I once had an interesting series of conversations on vampires in which we decided that the most successful ones were those who held up an image that one actually aspired to. The vampire had power because they held up a desirable image *and* the victims forgot that the image was theirs, not the vampire’s, and thus remained in his or her thrall.

    The error of bullying vampires would be that the image they hold up is a negative one. This works as long as it disempowers the victim, but ultimately it drives people away from them, which is the ironic part. They cannot figure this out – why did that person want to leave, how did they get away? How can they survive without the vampire bully? But the vampire bully underestimates people, and does not realize that the situation is the opposite – they are the vampire, they are the one who needs the victim, not the other way around.

  32. Yes. And it can be more complicated than this, too. Because we live in an era where perhaps more than ever, image is important. The public destruction of one’s image can mean financial loss, for a lot of people. The image itself it not a material thing, but it is linked to material things, and has causal relationships with material things (depending on how tenuous our situations are). So, if our situations are already compromised by our acceptance of cultural postmodernism (the sense that the image is all, and there is nothing of meaning beneath that), then the vampire bat can make use of that already existing psychological dynamic.

    This is where I think Bataille’s advice to embrace a state of abjection comes in use. It is a renouncing of the virtues of image — a renouncing that frees one from the entanglements of image that this culture wraps one up in, which enslave one. This is really magick of the highest order, because it makes one free of capitalism and vampires and all sorts of nasties.

  33. How is Bataille’s abject different from “that which is excluded from modernity” [the postmodern] or is it at all? (I have not thought about these things for some time but you are getting me quite interested in Bataille … I have even located my copy of *Inner Experience* – !)

  34. Well I don’t think that the elements that are somehow excluded by the movement of Modernism were excluded on a precisely moral basis — or were they? To me, Modernism is an aesthetic movement, not a moral movement. Some may wish to see it as a moral movement but I don’t know how much sense that makes. It would be like writing to the state lottery to complain that one had been overlooked — again — as the state lottery winner. It just doesn’t make sense to see an exclusionary process at work in the way that Modernist aesthetics works.

    Yet, Bataille considers that there is such a process at work in the way that morality works. In fact, that which energises conformity is that we are all afraid of slipping through the cracks — into becoming abject. So, we work hard to keep up with the Joneses, embracing image over reality and conformity over our own freedom.

    Show me a postmodernist who is not vying for inclusion (“I want my image to be considered legitimate within current cultural practices”) rather than for exclusion. Inclusion says, “I don’t care how thin my image or how much I need to subordinate myself, I want legitimation and the cash flow that comes with that.” This is the postmodernist’s urge. Bataille says, “You have legitimation, but you are unfree because of it. Even your thoughts are not your own, but society’s thoughts, thinking through you. Break free by discovering what you are NOT — that is, the self that you are refusing to be because you are afraid of abjection. Your social self craves this non-social self, and is incomplete without it.”

    So, I think you can see that postmodernism and the theories of Bataille are two very different things. The postmodernist does not have an urge towards freedom but towards social acceptance — the exact opposite direction. The postmodernist was inclusion and acceptance. Bataille wants exclusion and the shock of refusal of acceptance. The postmodernist pursues a liberal — or neoliberal — agenda. Bataille’s approach is radical dissent and towards disorder — a direct defiance of all legitimation processes.

    What could be more different? (And what greater misunderstanding than to confuse Bataille’s agenda with that of postmodernism?)

  35. I do not think either modernity as the “Enlightenment project” or modernist aesthetics actually work on an exclusionary basis, no matter what the postmodernists say.

    “Modernization” often does, though, and I agree with you utterly about postmodernists and conformity.

    Bataille and the abject. I think I misunderstood this when I read him, in part for reasons having to do with the class, gender, and post/colonial status of the writers I was having to read him with … I was at the time very much on guard against all possible ‘glorification’ of having been pushed through the cracks … this is *very* interesting on him.

  36. Ahm yes, the enlightenment project. I don’t see that as exclusionary either. Actually, a new Australian political party, called the Secular Party, is taking up the issue of civil rights for gays and lesbians. So we can see that these kinds of issues sit very well with ‘enlightenment’ (and maybe not so well with a religious approach.)

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