- It is the essential gesture of these performances and images to capture as performance and image everything that, as human activity, exists in a fluid state, in order to own it – to make it property – in a frozen state, in the shape of things that have finally become society’s sole source of value: by formulating themselves as the imprint: the negative image, as it were, of value as it can actually be lived. In this essential gesture we recognize our old enemy, who knows so well how to appear at first glance something trivial and perfectly natural, whereas on the contrary it is in fact something tremendously complex and full of metaphysical subtlety: consumer goods.
* – * – *
In the English-speaking world, money was first used to escape from social obligation – to buy out one’s social obligations… This was the reason it first became widely used.
But as we learn in budo: if you escape a social obligation, then you also don’t have – you don’t get to acquire – the experience of performing that obligation. And so you have no idea of the real value of performing that obligation…
And as we can see, increasingly, today… and this is becoming more and more visible: by definition, the “imprint” is made by people who are under pressure, under compulsion… in a hurry. So they h a v e no real sense of value.
And consumer goods are the comforting short hand, the abbreviated avatar of their guilt – for the social relations escaped from.
So, in the English-speaking world, when the pre-Reformation abbeys, convents and monasteries were abolished – they became big, fancy houses for rich merchants and nouveaux riches… with no chapel.
Whereas in a recusant household, the chapel would still be there: still the beating heart of the household… and they would sing the old music – and play it on viols – wood and gut and voices raised in sweet harmonies, making the air dance all together.
And often, today, we see something that originally was religious – pantheistic or animist, rooted and local – and many-layered – for sale in a simplified form. A form that you c o u l d still use to build a deeper understanding – but no-one has the time or the know-how. So its monetary value is a wish based on a distant memory of its real, experienced value.
That wish is how the keeping-you-always-wanting-more works!
So the thing to do is: take the time. Take the time to add your own activity and attention to any object. Actually read that book over and over till you know what’s in it! And add repetition of movement… And just as you can discover that the standard conservatoire breathing exercises of English-speaking theatre are actually energy work from centuries ago – they are alchemical and they go back to central Asia – so, simply by enjoying your story of time, and being gently inquisitive, you can get inside, and understand…
…it’s an active kind of observation.
And for us, that takes some doing, because part of your brain wants to capture that frozen ‘image’ of a thing: commit to memory certain things, as we practise. Which is fine. But it may get in the way, eventually, of actually observing. Because what you’re seeking as feedback only goes one place. it doesn’t go to the next place.
So, we try to get to where the way-we-watch changes. And when that happens, events lose habitual perception. You’re not observing them from a habit, like: “it means this.” “That means that.” And that’s that thing where you discover that there’s far more going on there the thing you’re trying to expect.
Then, in the dojo, when we have our conversation about what just happened
it’s not about “Oh, did I do it right?” It’s about timing and energy and movement… And also I notice that when you guys are doing it this way, you laugh.
There’s a kind of a joyous laugher to the brain going “Ooh, that was different.” Everything is sweet and easy: it’s weird – but it’s easy.
So my wish is that I could somehow help you own that: that condition of mind.
So that it’s yours.
And, yes, budo and farming: you can see how being a teenager and having a 160 lb pig come down the chute and having to do kansetsu on them would help… how that was a great education… one pig after another… it’s a continuous drilling of that kansetsu.
Over and over. And it’s the same timing each time. Yep.
And even a bale of hay, which is just heavy.
You’ve all done stuff up at the cabin where you have to use your whole body, and you have to relax, and you have to use the energy that’s coming, and you have to get it to go to the right place… the word irimi comes to mind…
And you can’t be aggressive. You have to stay soft.
The bigger the animal, the softer you have to be.
* – * – *
- This is the principle of the fetishization of consumer goods, the domination of society by “something that is supra-tangible rather than tangible”, and this domination has been brought to completion by ‘le spectacle‘, because now the tangible and physical world has been replaced by a selection of images which shimmer over it – that are seen to be more important than it – while at the very same time they have imposed themselves as the absolute epitome – the paragon – of what is to be tangible and physical.
* – * – *
Slow down, and take all the time there is, and you can again start to see the shimmer that is there in the real, physical world. This is the original shimmer. And the consumer fetish shimmer is nothing but a way-of-seeing of which you are perfectly capable, that has been stolen from you, reduced, packaged and that they are now trying to sell back to you….
…so, just as training is like a book – and you have pages, and every time you practise – if you train in a spirit of inquiry – you are turning a new page – so training is also like laying down layers to make these shimmering colors: you can think pigment and varnish, like Maxfield Parrish’s colors… You take very clear material – kokyu – you put the slightest spin on it: the slightest nuance of pigment in it, and then you are laying down layers to build up that something… and what it does is create a luminosity – an inner light – that’s different from anything else – it’s its own kind of magic.
Some of the classic Dutch painters did it: Rembrandt van Rijn… Vermeer… he was using the technology of his time, but using the color technique of alchemists…
As you repeat our jo-kata – and various other things we do – when you approach these movements correctly, not simply “I’m going to learn the thirty-one movements so I get a belt…” then you start understanding that jo-kata in many ways. A light shines through it. You start understanding kyo, and ken-ki-tai… and you’re able to access this secret, hidden bit of the movement – the hidden book within the movement – where you’re joining the two halves of the brain so you have that thing where you’re actually getting past that yes/no, subject/object – we use the dictum: “there is no enemy” – that self/other paradigm. And on a physical level, you’re creating these really amazing connections across the brain-halves. Until the inner voice is gone.
And what you have then is the kokoro, the heart-voice. Not the binary voice of one half of the brain arguing the point with the other half of the brain. And then that allows the development of a hara: the actual intelligence of hara.
So, in Chinese thought you have the idea of shin-chi-jin – heaven-earth-man. Well, this is the idea of synergising all three. So that your body speaks with a single voice, your heart talks with a single voice… your mind speaks… and they’re all the same voice. This is the essence of shin-shin-toitsu – body and mind as one – except maybe from a more alchemic point of view.
And when your body and mind are unified, then you can start to work on musubi with your surroundings and with the people around you…
* – * – *
- The simultaneously present and not-present world which these performances and images show us is the world of consumerism controlling everything that we live. And, being shown to us like this – as simultaneously present and not present – the world of consumerism – the world of our consumer fetish – is shown exactly as it is, because its basic/essential action is precisely to put distance between men/women, and the whole planet-wide ensemble of their creations.
* – * – *
When the alchemical way of thinking goes underground – that way of thinking, that position in respect of the world – that directly connects the individual to the elements and to physical reality… when it stops being a part of everyone’s everyday lives… when it becomes almost impossible to think in that way: when most people have no words for thinking that way… when it becomes a mindset that you discover and fall into if you persist in mastering an art, or a high-level sport…but still without words to describe it directly… T h e n it is not reduced – simply there is no way to describe it – but t h e n they can control it and sell it back to you. And t h a t is when it becomes reduced – by distance… your distance.
So it becomes the stuff of experts. The tricks of an art.
And if you are NOT aware of it in your producing and creating – if you don’t know how to get inside of that way of thinking – then it can be presented to you as a characteristic of stuff you couldn’t possibly make, but have to buy… and increasingly, in the Information Age, keeping people in a hurry is essential to this!!!! But for centuries, in Western society, this way of thinking, this way of seeing the world, was banned as a forbidden heresy.
And this, today, is behind people’s general fascination for how artists do what they do… and behind the gradual progress we are making towards “everyone becoming an artist” again… – which is the same as our progress towards living with a sense that “everything is sacred” again – and notice how many people want this, but have no words to talk about this!
And in the world of aikido, O’Sensei, often, is elaborating on this very same ancient alchemic tradition. He’s coming from the traditional Asian perspective, but it’s the same thing. If you read the old European alchemists, it’s identical: there’s no difference. The only difference is that the Asians didn’t lose the vocabulary to describe it to people in general, whereas in the Western world, everything became secret because of the inquisition.
In Europe, to discuss these things was a combination of heresy and wisdom.
So: the painters who painted the Sistine Chapel, were using alchemic rules, and the very same people who were enjoying their labors, would have had them burned at the stake.
And in London, a playwright could get killed for it: in a small room in Deptford, in the back room of an inn-house…
So, because that was the safe way to talk about it, the energy-work that came into British theater – and singing – with the Renaissance, ended up being passed on as conservatoire style breath-training: but still through all the succeeding centuries, although you might not have the words to talk about it: if you have the breath to fill an 800 seat auditorium, you also have the ki-energy – the kokyu, the spirit – to do it as well.
And that old question of who really wrote Shakespeare? The theater itself wrote Shakespeare. The building itself wrote Shakespeare. Those guys – they had both halves of the brain connected up for sure. Which meant they were also connected to each other, and to all the alchemists and aristocratic patrons and enthusiasts who have been suggested to have been involved in the writing.
The two first successful professional theatres in London were just by an ancient sacred space: Holywell Abbey named for its magic well. One of these two, and most of the other Elizabethan/Jacobean theatres, were near-circular structures of approximately the same diameter as Stonehenge. And in the Cornish – Celtic – tradition, there survives into medieval times and historical record the practice of mystery theatre in a similar-sized, circular space – that entirely matches the structure of surviving Bronze Age/Iron Age Celtic hillforts – ditch and mound ring forts.
So the Shakespearean way of seeing has ancient roots, and his aristocratic supporters and collaborators knew this… …and in one of the more secretive succeeding lineages: Rosicrucianism and its successors, this way of seeing was passed on as an active skill – with a repertoire of training exercises that are as varied and as effective as in the Tibetan and Shugendo esoteric traditions: near-death experiences, stage-managed with skillful trompe-d’oeil, among them… and some of these lineages have passed on to this day the secret of seeing artisanal skill in a close relationship with physical reality as a way of entering into this old way of seeing: and the practice of seeing the human activity and musubi and sense-of-community surrounding the creation and production of physical objects as the essential understanding – and monetary value as merely the servant to these.
But today we are in a new situation, which challenges the secrecy of even these lineages. And in these times, the structures of monetary value are no longer primary, have become more and more divorced from physical reality, and have become more and more volatile – so that it becomes harder and harder to persuade us to feel these structures as ‘natural’. And the structures of performance and image have acquired an independence that puts them into question even as – at the very same time – they have become the primary and dominant structure. And all these questions rebound equally onto the mountain of objects that we have made…
* – * – *
- The degradation and loss of quality which is so obvious, so clear to see at every level of ‘le spectacle‘: in the use of language that is fostered by these performances and images, in the [mass-produced] objects that we are told we should want, and in the behavior that these performances and images promote… in all of these we can simply and clearly see the basic stance and the fundamental nature of the actual creative process that produces them. It is a process that avoids the complexity and completeness of actual reality… it is a process that stays aways from that. The things that we call ‘consumer goods’ are through and through equivalent to nothing but themselves: they are purely about quantity, and the only thing they can do is increase: the only direction in which they can develop over time is in the direction of quantity…
* – * – *
The fundamental mechanism of consumer culture is to keep you unsatisfied… to keep you unsatisfied at the very moment of acquiring the longed-for consumer object: whether it be a physical object (old school) or a representation (nouveau-nouveau). This is splitting your ki, and maintaining you in a perpetual state of split ki – it is why multi-tasking emerged as the absolute epitome of the culture – and the clearest way of breaking away from the constant downward spiral of speech, behavior, and creative standards that is characteristic of the world of le spectacle is to learn the difference between splitting your ki and not splitting your ki. And to get in the habit of not splitting your ki.
Splitting ki is like this: suppose you have to jump across a stream… well, if you have doubt, you don’t really jump. You mm-m–m–… and you probably land in the stream. So if you think about misogi: you either get in the river or you don’t get in the river. If you split your ki you will end up in the river up to your knees – which we have all seen – and knee-misogi‘s just as painful, with little benefit. And you realize – if you land in the stream, or if you find yourself doing knee-misogi – you realize that it is because you haven’t got your ki behind anything.
So the universal principle is this:
- the universe is an exact reflection of your greater consciousness, depending on what you identify with…
Most people in this age split their ability to create things into two parts pretty easily. And it’s a tricky thing. But if you can get to a place where you let yourself be super-honest, then you can develop makoto.
Makoto is basically: It is what it is. You are what you are.
Don’t think of it as some kind of “morality” thing. You’re correcting things that are producing negative results for yourself in the world. And you become aware of them. Suddenly you realize: t h i s thing creates static between me and others… t h i s thing creates lack of synchronicity…
So. One type of problem is that you don’t feel synchronized with the world. You’re out of sync.
Another is: you’ve created some kind of bouncing energy with another person, with another thing or with some presence.
And so then our thinking is: in training, here in the dojo, to stop doing it.
It’s Yoda’s line: “Do or don’t do. There is no try.” It sounds very philosophical, but there’s something here that’s about ki. Because your ki goes exactly where your mind goes, and where your mind is. There’s not like some trick to ki. At all. It’s not a trick. But it requires some work.
There are some sneaky things that we do, that until we catch them, they screw up everything for us: they constantly trip us up. One of them appears to be good, but it really is slippery… and the other one appears to be good in another way. But neither one produces the ki that is one-thing. Bang. The ‘I need to do x‘, where the universe gives you all the parts. And they start falling into place.
But if you have multiple ki-streams then you get a little bit of this, a little bit of that… you can get one ki-stream that’s totally against what you want to create, plus another ki-stream that’s totally for what you want to create. And it creates a maelstrom, a mess… and then you make up stories to yourself.
Well, t i m e is the story we tell ourselves.
That’s all it is. We have a story we tell ourselves and that’s what we call time.
If we tell a story to ourselves that we are one with the universe, we have a certain sense of time.
And if the story we tell ourself is broken, we have a certain sense of time.
Many of the famous lineage tales that we tell now, initially were all verbal: a couple of guys in the desert would tell it every night, and everyone sat around and went “ooooh”, and it gave them a sense of time. This is where we began. We are the sons and daughters of N. We did this. We walked here. We did that, and this happened to us.
And that became who they are.
But it also became their sensation of time.
And here in the dojo, I’m always saying, “Well, get in your center, and then you can play with subjective time.” Because then you can play with your story. And once you get good at playing with the story, you free yourself.
You free yourself from lots of restrictions of time. Also, maybe, from old ideas about how time works. You may be able to accomplish a lot, or extend a moment – a sunset… or whatever it may be – …
And so the study of time is the honest perception of de-ai.
What forces disturb a story? The stories we have.
Well. A “lie”.
And then: an omission. Leaving something out.
Which is a common part of commerce, right now: it’s even illegal to label food in a way that would enable us to make coherent choices based on printed facts backed up by rule of law. We can
- go along with an aggregate of sentiments expressed on video
- go with the local, having looked the grower in the eye
And those are the choices in many aspects of our life, right now, and going forward.
So. Omission. We do it to ourselves by not looking closely at what we’re creating. “Well, I don’t want to think about it.” “It makes me upset.” “I don’t want to think about it. It’ll make me angry.” But it always works out that in the end, it creates just what you were avoiding. Even when the omission is never brought up for display, is never actually seen, still, it influences things.
And, of course, there’s commission. Even if you have a good reason in your head: if you know it’s a lie, then it will distort your ki. Your ki follows your mind.
So if we want to work towards makoto we have to quit it. You have to recognize it and say, “Oh, you’re telling me it’s a good idea. It’s not.” Now, you don’t have to spew your opinions on people. And it’s probably okay to lie to the Gestapo. What you have to do is figure out how to be skillful but not create a habit, or a life-way based on these things that split your ki.
So just think: “Oh, if I do that, what’s my ki likely to be like?”
So we often say in here… the reason we often talk about budo…
Aikido is without deception.
We don’t plan to fool anybody, we just obey laws of the universe. We create echoes, knowing how people behave: we train to have these in our body. But we’re not producing strategies based on falsehood.
Because you can’t get there from that.
You can’t get to that place where you want to go – which is a really clear, sincere existence – by planning deception as the way to get there. Because you’ll get half and half. And then your ki will be split.
So we call this ‘mind-training’. We do some introspection, and we go “okay, let me drop all the reasons that it f e e l s okay, and let’s examine it objectively…”
Make sure that the story you’re creating, you’re doing on purpose, with a sense of knowledge.
Kiri-hiraku. It cuts through illusion.
It takes some work.
It takes some being alert. So that if you do it, you realize: “I just split my ki.”
And you don’t want that. Because: you have a particular sense of who you want to be. You want to get real. Totally real.
* – * – *
- This process of degradation and loss of quality is itself, as a process, subject to degradation and loss of quality: and the advent of ‘le spectacle‘ signifies that the process has crossed the threshold of its own abundance. So far this is true only locally – only in some places – but it is also true, already, on the global scale: which is the reference point of the consumer society. A reference point which its movement – in practice – to assemble the entire planet as a global marketplace has amply confirmed.
* – * – *
And here we are – faster than anyone could have expected: large corporations are becoming unreliable and utterly inconsistent at delivering the very thing they proclaim to sell… and they are finding the only way they can grow is by inventing ways to trap their existing customers… …and we have now become completely accustomed to being in a place where almost all the language that surrounds us – written and heard – is a lie.
So, of course, people want it to be like it was before. But they don’t remember what it was before… They have no emotional memory… no relationship with physical reality… and so they substitute an image, a false kind of appearance because they don’t know the vibration of anything anymore.
So it becomes a world of appearances, only.
And whereas monetary value, under consumer capitalism, was – you could say – a wish based on a distant memory of real, experienced value… the value of appearances, in the Information Age, starts out as that, but soon adds excitement – using all the tricks that movie and theater people know.
That’s why people get all excited about a Kardashian picture. It’s… they don’t understand the alchemy of life any more so they’re starving for experience and so they substitute appearances. But the actual physical stuff is degraded. It, too, requires a center. So you have to buy organic now to get the taste… …of what used to be “food”… …of what our grandparents called “food”.
So you have to get artisanal cheese – something that has become a special thing – when it used to be the normal thing, but now the basic virtue of things: the virtue of a Way – of being the best cheese-maker… it’s really down to just a small group of people. And also it’s down to a comparatively small group of people who want it. A group that’s growing, but still: most people have never even tasted actual cheese. There are generations who have not eaten it: they’ve only ever eaten cheese product.
You look at a cowboy recipe, and you realize that the basic grain, the basic flour must have tasted better a hundred years ago. Because it’s just three ingredients.
Everything’s switched from its value as food to its value as a commodity. Human life, now a commodity. Everything’s a commodity. You know, the whole thing is like: some bean-counter looks at children at school and does a cost-benefit analysis on their lives without even knowing them. And the result is they become products, not people. And they know they’re products. They know how they’re going to be treated. They treat everyone else like products.
And pretty soon it’s hollow, it’s empty, so it becomes a thing without mitama. No soul.
But those who still have souls long for things that make your soul grow.
* – * – *
- These performances and images – ‘le spectacle‘ – embody the moment in history when consumer goods have arrived at the t o t a l o c c u p a t i o n of our life in society. Not only is our relationship with consumer goods always on display, it is the only thing we can see anymore! The world that we see is its world. Modern economic production spreads its dictatorial control far and wide – and deep… in the less industrialized parts of the world, its reign is already begun – embodied by a few, ‘star’ consumer-goods – and with the imperialist domination of these less industrialized parts of the world by those areas in the world that are leading in terms of the development of productivity. And in these more ‘advanced’ areas of the world, the social space is invaded by a continuous laying down of sedimentary layers of consumer goods.
- For now, at this stage, this point of the “second industrial revolution”, alienated consumerism becomes for the masses an extra duty in addition to that of alienated production and creativity. And then what we find ourselves looking at is the entirety of all the creativity which is marketable in our society: and – because it is everywhere – it becomes the sum of all of our consumer fetishes: and it is an endless cycle… which has to keep on cycling… endlessly…
- In order for this to happen, the system has to arrange for this totality of our consumer fetish to come back at us in a fragmentary manner, to us, individuals who are ourselves fragmented, completely separated from our creative forces as they operate as a whole. And here it is, that the specialized sciences of societal control become specialized in their own turn: fragmenting into sociology, psycho-technology, cybernetics, semiology…etc… and thus they see to the self-regulation of every level of the social process.
* – * – *
As Baudrillard wrote: it is when a system attains complete hegemony that it is closest to collapse.
Because now, a n y transformative practice (umwälzende Praxis) very clearly takes you outside of the system. Anything, at all, now, that changes your body. Anything, at all, now, that makes you see differently. Anything that puts you in a different place, in respect of the screen and the consumer object.
Any of these changes you… and changes society.
And for half a century, activists and artists have been creating physical circumstances – constructing situations 1) – that change the way we find ourselves and hold ourselves in the physical world.
But now we also have to change the way we find ourselves and hold ourselves in the v i r t u a l world.
1) “that is to say: the physical construction of temporary ambiences in real life, and their transformation to a better – and higher – emotional quality. We have to fabricate organized interventions which operate on…the material décor of life, and those behaviors that it engenders: and which overthrow it….our actions aimed at changing behavior – in addition to all the things we would wish for in a transformation of the customs of society – can be defined in a nutshell as: the invention of games of an entirely new kind. The goal, in the most general terms, must be to expand that part of life which is not mediocre, and to shrink, as much as is possible, les moments nuls: ‘nothing moments’….We could express it this way: we must increase the number of poetic objects and poetic subjects….and we must organize the play of these poetic subjects amongst these poetic objects. That is our entire program. It is essentially transitory….We have done enough interpreting of the emotions: it is time, now, to discover new ones…” – – – Guy Debord, Rapport sur la construction des situations, pp.33-45 passim
* – * – *
- These performances and images are an endless Opium War to persuade you that all kinds of goods are consumer goods, and that a state of satisfaction 1) is dissatisfaction: merely survival getting ever more complex according to its own laws. But if this consumable survival is something that has to get ever more and more complex, this is because it always has concealed in it a very precise dosage of d e p r i v a t i o n . If you can never get done with, can never be finished with, can never get beyond this mere survival getting ever more and more complex – if it never gets to the point – and never w i l l get to the point – where it stops getting ever more and more complex – this is because it will never, ever transcend deprivation… on the contrary: it is nothing other than – and nothing more than – deprivation itself, but at a more elevated level of income.
1) food, water, clothes, shelter, bedding, company
* – * – *
But now that performances and images have replaced physical consumer goods, and now that there is not even a real power relationship with the ensemble of performances and images, it is suddenly so very, very easy simply to switch them off. In fact, even rear-guard efforts of the legacy power structures to maintain control e n c o u r a g e the individual to switch off and be outside the system: if they put you on a no-fly list, if you work for a large organization and have to assume your every electronic communication is monitored… or if the official laundry room is thirty floors down and requires a smart phone… you learn to do without an element of the system and you discover that seeing the landscape, actually talking face-to-face with someone, hand-washing a few items in your room… are actually better, actually more connected. And if ever a cyber-war were to escalate, whole swathes of every continent would be switched off.
And those who had stocked up enough food, water, clothes, shelter, bedding… and who had reliable company… might be able to choose what got switched back on, and what stayed switched off.
And this would simply be the fast, catastrophic version of the slow disconnect that will happen if enough people disconnect themselves from the consumer itch, buy less, and sometimes, for a time, switch off. It will become harder and harder to make the already disconnected economic statistics appear to show “growth”.
And will be our responsibility to have structures in place to make that not matter.
* – * – *
- With the advent of automation – which is both the most advanced sector of modern industry, and the model which most perfectly epitomizes its practices – the world of consumer goods was faced with the necessity of overcoming t h i s contradiction: the technical apparatus which objectively suppresses work, has to at the same time work for the preservation of w o r k a s a c o n s u m e r g o o d , and as the o n l y place where consumer goods can be created. In order that automation – or any other, less extreme, way of increasing productivity – should not in fact reduce the amount of time required for work in our society (on the scale of society as a whole), it is necessary to create a whole new variety of jobs. The tertiary sector: the service sector, is the immense and extraordinary elongation of the supply lines of our army of distribution and of the long drawn-out praise of the currently available consumer goods: a mobilization of the reserves which – fortuitously – meets, in the physical and psychological realities of the needs that arise in relation to these consumer goods and consumerism, the requirement for a hugely inflated edifice of post-manufacture after-work.
* – * – *
And now, post-2008, that “fortuitous” match-up has fallen apart. And as the once primary “jobs” of actually producing physical consumer goods disappear, “jobs,” where you spend time being active in the “personal services” sector, nurture and encourage notions of loyalty and honesty completely at odds with the culture of consumer goods. And the “jobs” of creating virtual world consumer goods (videos, appearance, perception) nurture and encourage creativity – and a curiosity about creativity – that have nothing to do with the traditional ultra-specializations within a structure of physical mass-production.
So in the physical world, we become more sensitive to situations that have a positive energy, and which encourage ki-musubi… ki-connectedness… and humor, and playfulness…
And our activity in the virtual world encourages us to get in contact with at least a hint of rei: to rise – if just a little – above haku: simple, raw, animal spirits… …and eventually we realize that we should be trying to bring all of this i n t o the virtual world, hard as that might be.
* – * – *
- “Exchange value” could only come into being as the agent of “usage value,” but its victory by its own force of arms has created the conditions for it to have dominion under its own flag. Organizing every and all human usage… claiming and seizing a monopoly on the satisfaction deriving from that usage… it has ended up c o n t r o l i n g t h a t u s a g e i t s e l f . So the process of exchange has proclaimed itself actually to be absolutely every possible usage, and has brought simple old-fashioned “usage” to its knees. “Exchange value” is “usage value’s” hired mercenary, who has ended up making war on his own account.
* – * – *
The sea-peoples and the ancient Egyptians. The Huns and the Roman Empire. And today: how much US military presence is actually contractors?
Certainly, intelligence and military hackers all round the world are mostly contractors. Cyber-warfare is contracted out. And when they do recruit geeks and hackers directly into the intelligence services: dress-code and drug-codes are relaxed. They are a different class…
…who control the means of production.
Three millennia ago, money in the Western world was invented, probably, to pay and control mercenaries: by marking their bits of gold with the sign of who they had just been fighting for. But now we have Bitcoin.
* – * – *
Lydia cheated their mercenaries by mixing 30% gold, 70% silver, and a trace of copper to make it look like gold. So right from the start, Western money was rooted in deception. But now we have Bitcoin.
That only geeks can mine.
Rooted in reason. Even in honesty.
But not in generosity.
Nor in any wider sense of transaction… beyond the simple arithmetical, and the more hermetic reaches of the virtual world…
* – * – *
- This constant of the capitalist economy: the ongoing tendency for “usage value” to decline, creates a new form of deprivation within our more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… which is in no way an enfranchisement from our former poverty, seeing that it demands the participation of the vast majority of men – and women – as salaried workers, in un-ending pursuit of the efforts it specifies: and seeing that everyone knows that they must submit to this or die. And this is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion: the fact that “usage” in its simplest form (eating, sheltering) does not exist, and cannot be thought of – can no longer be thought of – except trapped and imprisoned inside the illusory riches of this more elevated and more complex version of mere survival… And it is the reality of its blackmailing and extortion which is the real, true basis of our overall, ubiquitous acceptance of this illusion: in the consumption of modern consumer goods. A man or woman, physically consuming something real and physical, becomes a consumer of illusions. Consumer goods are this illusion which in practice is taken for ‘reality’… and ‘le spectacle‘ is its generalized, ubiquitous manifestation.
* – * – *
And in our time, in this Information Age, the spectacle itself – these performances and images – have become the non-physical “consumer goods” that are imbued with this illusion. And everywhere this is a debased, partial modification of ‘the sacred’. Which bars us from contact with the vibration and the energy of the sacred, and of physical reality. But which perpetuates our drive and hunger for that very thing.
And, going back… To a time when probably travelers, with physical goods, were also shamans. And the exchange of the physical goods – with strangers – was just one part of a shamanic exchange. The market, in the churchyard, on the festival day of the patron saint, is the last ubiquitous, society-wide manifestation of this in the English-speaking world. After which it becomes partial – and tendencious. The elevated ‘theatre prices’ of food and beverages – and souvenir programs – that we sell at the performances of plays would be one lingering manifestation of this…
And to find a g e n e r a l i z e d equivalent of this… something that can replace bartering… is always to de-sensitize yourself to the vibration of the real, specific object.
So. There was a time, when the material gold was pretty hard to get. There were only certain known sources. And it had a certain quality to it, different from
the other four metals: it did not rust, it was flexible, and it had that yellow-ish glow, similar to a fairly accessible meditative state. So it was special.
And there’s a place, Lydia, which is mostly mountains… and their city, Sardis, was one of the few sources of gold: and they had naturally occurring electrum – gold mixed with silver, that looks like gold but is harder. So they could stamp two magical images, a bull and a lion – fertility and ferocity – onto nuggets of apparent gold, but these nuggets, magically, were more durable. And they used these to pay soldiers from the surrounding peoples – mercenaries – and mark them as theirs. And using this special, apparent gold from their mountains, they created a mystique – an aura of exceptionalism – in the neighboring high plateau: which in this way became part of the Lydian Empire. And this was the first coinage.
And remember: the nature of geography is such that the traveling shaman, who also brings physical goods, would always come from over the mountains, or from the sea.
And what the Lydians were saying was: “Here’s the immutable. And here’s our state, our country, our identity. And they’ve been coupled together.” Because gold is this very unusual object, back then… especially unusual in comparison with other things: it did not decay.
And so suddenly gold was no longer just this material, it was the state, also, their state. Persia conquered Lydia, and started issuing electrum coinage, and the other nations, in this case Greece, as we understand it, saw this and started stamping symbols on t h e i r gold. And then you have Minoan ingots in the shape of a cow-hide: and right there you have the sense of an abstract, uniform sense of value that is not “usage value”. And, of course, you have something that is a completely different vibration from an actual cow-hide.
So you have an abstract sense of “the state”. And institutions in general. And the abstract sense of “exchange value”.
Which has nothing to do with a group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village, Sardis. Which is the actual foundation of the Lydian ‘state’.
Whereas Phoenician coinage was generally copper – which was needed for making bronze. You could go to Cornwall – by their sea-trading routes – with a cow-hide of copper and get a cow-hide of tin and you put them together and you’ve got bronze. From which you could make the weaponry which would be held by the group of mountain men, gathered together to defend their mountain village. So the vibrational energy of the copper “cow-hide” is related to the vibrational energy of this village. Which the vibrational energy of electrum is not.
And for many villages at this time, as you moved your cattle around with the seasons, it appears that these were not privately owned cattle: and so the theft of these cattle became a symbolic act, between villages. More than simply “I need cows”. So this was the begin of merging a material that had “usage value” with a symbolic materialism. So roasting and eating a stolen cow became a hugely symbolic act. As did roasting and eating your cow that you had successfully protected against theft.
And, similarly, if they captured your coinage, they’d melt it down and stamp their own symbols on it. And yet they didn’t actually get to eat a cow – which would be so much more satisfying, at a vibrational level. And this evolved into copper coinage and bronze coinage: all these things where now the ‘state’ is the value, not the physical object.
So now we live in this very odd structure, in which symbolic objects things take on huge symbolic wealth and meaning… an iPhone takes on a meaning beyond what it is.
And now we have even gotten to this place where the video that you watch on the iPhone has taken on the transcendent meaning. And it’s not about the physical energy of what you see in the video – the physical energy that you would sense if you were actually there. The transcendent meaning is about the possibility of watching at a distance. And taking a place in a structure of technology. And so it actually assigns a high value to NOT being able to feel the vibration of the thing itself.
And, unlike a physical item of consumer goods, there is no fraction of this that is “usage value”, actually getting to enjoy the vibration of the thing itself. Not an iota. Zip. This vibration is inaccessible through the electronic network.
So this is a hugely unstable situation, which over a few decades, at the most, will surely work itself out. Because we still have people around who will remind us that eating a cow is hugely more satisfying than stamping a symbol into a piece of copper. Or, after the bubble bursts, more satisfying than keying the contract directly into the currency.
* – * – *
- The “usage value” that was implicitly understood to be included in the “exchange value” of an item of consumer goods, now has to be loudly blazoned forth in these imprints of reality that are these performances and images. This is precisely because the actual “usage value” of any piece of consumer goods is strictly limited: [how often do most people use any single one of the mountain of physical objects that their consumer fetish drives them to acquire? And what purpose does that object serve except to enable the consumer to feel integrated into the grand structure of consumerism?] This is a false “life,” and the strident affirmations that every single consumer object can do something very particular and special for you are the “pseudo-justification” that keeps the babble of this false “life” inflated.
* – * – *
Because how much “usage value,” really, is there in a video?
And how much of the actual sensual and vibrational experience of inter-acting with an object, really, is there in “usage value” anyway?
And even as a depiction of the mere appearance of this abbreviated “usage value”, a video exercises the same excision as Western philosophy: and all the human value of the creativity involved in making the object, and the sensual richness of actually using the object – and the ki-flow of both activities… all are lost in the video, completely lost.
What you can have is the raw animal spirits, the “haku” of the event – but nothing of the “rei“.
And even Karl Marx was struck speechless in contemplation of these things. His Grundrisse, famously, break off, unfinished – after 803 pages – precisely when he starts to analyse “value,” and contemplates the communal property of a family, or of a First Peoples community: its complexities suddenly a blank sheet to him, and so much more than just “usage value”.
And he realizes: “exchange value” only begins to happen when an “owner” s t o p s relating to the “usage value” of something.
Just as when a coastal African community and Carthaginian traders take turns leaving a pile of objects on a beach two and a half millennia ago.
And to that, he has nothing to say…
* – * – *
- The concentrated result of all the organized labor and creativity in our society – at the moment that we attain economic abundance – becomes visible and makes all reality subject to simple appearance: which is now the principal product of reality. So Capital is no longer an invisible center which directs the means of production: the ways in which we create… its massive accumulation makes it spread out and spread out all the way to the edges of the world: in the form of physical, tangible, and then perceptible objects. The entire extent of society is its portrait.
* – * – *
The real confusion of our times, is the uncomprehending struggle of the financial world with the world of appearances… …which affords us enormous opportunity.
* – * – *
- The victory of this autonomous economy is certain to be at the same time its destruction and ruination. The forces which it has unleashed work to suppress all the economic necessity(s) which have been the constant basis of all former societies, up to now. When this autonomous economy replaces our economic necessities with its own need for endlessly expanding economic development, it cannot help but replace the satisfaction of primary human needs, simply understood, by an uninterrupted fabrication of pseudo-needs which amount to nothing more than one single pseudo-need: to maintain its own dominance. But the autonomous economy has separated for ever from our profound human needs… to precisely the extent that it has become visible, as it emerges from the collective non-conscious – which, unknowingly, was dependent on it. “Every thing that is conscious is subject to entropy. That which is unconscious is unchangeable and remains unchanging. But once it is brought to light, does it not, too, in turn, decay and fall into ruin?” (Freud)
* – * – *
It has only been six centuries – in the English-speaking world – since the village market typically happened in the churchyard. And so much of consumerism can be seen as a debasement and a parody of something that was at one time sacred.
There are old, traditional ways of suppressing economic necessities: warrior traditions of going without food, going without shelter… that go back to hunter/gatherer times. Even the Zen temple’s “a day without work is a day without food”. And in the history of our own culture: Lent, and in the old days: Advent… two seasons of saving on stored food, in the lean days before Spring comes again, and plants start growing again.
And all of these put you in touch with the Tao, with storehouse consciousness, with the collective non-conscious. All of these create connection.
Which a wasteful over-abundance of over-travelled food does not.
In an era when fasting is usually for appearance.
* – * – *
- At the very moment that society discovers that it depends on the economy, then at that very moment, in fact, the economy starts to depend on society. That underground force, that grew and grew until it became apparent, and apparently sovereign, has also in fact, lost its power. Because there, where there used to be a “THAT”, there now is an “I”, and it h a s to be an “I”. And this subject can only come from the culture at large: that is, from the struggles that are interior to it. The possibilities of her or his existence depend on the outcome of the class struggles that are laid bare as the creation and creator of the economic foundations of history.
* – * – *
- The awareness of one’s desires, and one’s desire for awareness are both, identically, a project that – in its negative aspect – requires the doing away of all class distinctions, which is to say, the direct ownership by everyone of every moment of their own working activity. The direct opposite of this is this culture ruled by performances and images, where – from a historical point of view – consumer goods look at other consumer goods in a world that they have created.
– – – Guy Debord, Paris 1967
– – – Takeharu Yoshi Renshi