How many times do we have to educate these fucking fools? Don’t they ever learn?
Part 3 (of 4)
Sasha Miltsov: Now here comes a question about the Net. You’ve been skeptical about the Internet and it’s true that Internet is like a giant zoo in which you can see everything and everyone: all these anti-corporate people, for example, are there and very active. Radicals of all kinds and flavors are “active on-line” and yet there’s very little happening outside the Net. What is the problem?
Hakim Bey: The problem seems to be that the Internet is sucking away any energy that would have gone into real action but which instead goes into the “symbolic discourse” – but even more so because now you have interactivity and the “many-to-many” bullshit, so that you have the illusion of accomplishing great things: “O! We have a million hits on our peace website!” And a million people on the march!” And still nothing happens. And everybody scratches the head and says: “Well, maybe we need to get the message even wider. We need to educate the new generation.” “Education! Education!” I’m so sick of hearing about education. How many times do we have to educate these fucking fools? Don’t they ever learn?
I’m tired of information. I don’t want any more information. I have lots of information – far more than I can ever process myself in news. I would like to be able to refuse information – not get more and more, and more, and more of it; because when you’re addicted to information you never do anything with it. You don’t do anything… period! You just sit in front of your screen, interacting with various blogs, forums and websites. Great political ideas, sure, and bad ones, and everything you like and then what?
Basically, it’s just another technological fix. A new need is created by capitalism. Everybody now needs it. And so what? What’s the next chapter? The next chapter is nanotechnology or genetic manipulations and so on, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. Obviously, what’s missing is some kind of a sharp revolutionary concept – I try to use this word in the broad, general sense removed entirely from its historical dimensions.
But without something along those lines, something has to replace the movement of the social, which is dead. Thatcher said it: “There is no alternative; there is no such thing as society.” And it looks like she was right as far as we can tell, unless you can prove her wrong.
HB: Well, perhaps. It occurred to me that we need something like a spiritual renewal; perhaps neo-shamanistic, obviously green, interested in Earth and sustainability, somewhat pagan, perhaps, but not without participation from the monotheistic traditions.
To tell you the truth, the intellectual tools are available in Hermeticism in Western occult tradition, which embraces Paganism and Monotheism, and which is neither a religion nor science but is both together. And, actually, nor is it an art! So we have this great western tradition, which is not tainted with power in the way that the churches are, that could absorb all the neo-shamanistic – and even the better part of the New Age tendencies – and give some kind of a focus. It could have all sorts of regional variations and it would not involve dogma because it is not a church. But again, you can’t just snap your fingers and say, “this is what everybody should do now”.
Generally speaking, I don’t find that the arts are very persuasive. It seems that people have already made up their mind and then they consume the art that reinforces their point of view. I was thinking about this yesterday on the Peace March – nobody who sees this Peace March and hears the “Peace Now!” slogans is going to change their mind about something. Maybe, if they are 11 years old. It’s always nice to think that maybe some 9 year-old kid will see the March and that changes his or her mind. But basically, this stuff is not persuasive and it’s not even what it’s all about. I asked everybody if they themselves or anybody they knew changed their mind about anything from seeing that movie, Michael Moore’s “911 Fahrenheit”, which I didn’t see. I was just curious to know. No – not one person. They all went because they knew that they would either hate it or agree with it. They didn’t change their mind as a result of seeing the movie. This is not about persuasion. It’s some kind of ritualistic reinforcement of class-values.
SM: The movie itself is just plain brainwashing, misleading in many ways: it portrays Bush as the ultimate evil and the democrats are all nice angels flying around. And it’s like another Hollywood production and a huge commercial hit, like “Titanic” – well, not that big but still. So, it’s nothing.
HB: It’s less than nothing.
SM: There are so many people deluded by this movie and other such media samples. On the Net, there are all these forums and discussion groups devoted to the film. It’s like a milestone for these guys. Horrible.
HB: Sure! I would expect especially on the Net, where it’s precisely the controversy that swirls up over some piece of media that gives people the illusion of action. After all, this is something they’re doing on their own – not at work, not at school. By today’s standards, it feels like this is action! Because… what else is there?
SM: There is another thing on a different subject: the supposedly secret Pentagon report about the climate change. It states that the major problem the US will have to deal with will be the climate change. It describes all sorts of horrors that such change will cause during the next 10-20 years, such as weather patterns in England will start resembling those of Siberia; Holland and Belgium will disappear because of a sudden rise in the water level; extraordinary, huge tornados over Florida and so on and so forth. What’s your idea about all this?
HB: Right, that’s another scenario in which the ecological catastrophy, which we all have been expecting since the 19th century, actually occurs. And then what? I’m not looking forward to it. It is not going to be the revolution or the nice downfall of civilization after which we’ll all go back to being Stone Age fairies. It’s going to be a horrible fucking mess.
I’ve recently read an interesting report about “global dimming“. It seems that there are two kinds of pollution that cause climate change: one is particulate pollution: matter – little bits of matter like when a volcano blows up – and that screens the sunlight and causes cold weather on Earth. The other kind is gaseous pollution, which causes the greenhouse effect, which causes hot weather on Earth. So far, according to this article, these two effects cancel each other out. But then it occurred to me that the capitalist would say that the automobile emission is good – it is ecologically sound to burn soft coal and to have more and more automobiles, because it’s protecting us from the ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. It’s one of those, “Do you prefer to die by fire or flood? Will the world end with a bang or a whimper? Choose one from colon A and one from colon B.”
Again, in order to stop this from happening, everyone would have to get rid of their automobiles. Today. Right now.
HB: Yesterday! Otherwise it’s too late.
SM: I’ve read that the biosphere is sort of “conservative” and so today we are dealing with the pollution from the 60’s, which was much less severe than now. But let’s say in 30 years we will have to deal with the pollution of our time, which is enormous.
And it is worth mentioning that whenever the topic of overpopulation comes up, the western people immediately start complaining about Asian and African nations with big populations. It is true that this is a big problem for these nations. But at the same time, take India as an example. Indians generally live on an extremely scarce amount of recourses. One Indian consumes maybe 30 times less than one American.
HB: Oh, even more than that!
SM: Yes, for sure there is a difference when you have two million Indians instead of one, but it’s a far greater problem for the environment when you get 2 million Americans or any other “western-minded” people with similar “aspirations”. So, the overpopulation is actually caused by people from the so-called “civilized world”.
And modern China is an interesting phenomenon. This nation, like its western counterparts, is also completely submerged in the “production-consumption” obsession, more on the “production” side, of course. So, they will sooner or later end up in a tragic situation, especially given the huge population and the lack of resources; that is, unless, they break away from this free-market delusion and the race for production, production, production for the Western world.
HB: Essentially, all these are reasons to be pessimistic, because I don’t see any solutions to them. The only way to be anti-pessimistic would be fairly existentialist: “I know what’s right. I have made this choice about what’s correct and I’m going to do it and if the world comes to an end – that’s it.” It’s like this hadith of the Prophet Mohamed: “Even if you know that the world will end tomorrow – plant a tree”, and “even if you know you’re going to live forever act as if each day was your last day.” Between these two extremes a kind of ethics appears; in fact, interestingly enough an ethics towards the environment since he chose the example of planting a tree. So, one simply does that, because of the existentialist choice to do that instead of being a stupid oppressed serf. It’ s a choice.
SM: Absolutely right…
HB: And this leads us into dangerous waters indeed; into the whole idea of “Acte Gratuite”, the “Atentat”, terrorism, assassination, ideas which have great appeal on the extreme Right. “Magical Resistance” which really has to do with the Self rather than society. And I admit, these are very dangerous waters but when all your other options have been stripped away from you – this seems to be what’s left: a feeling for one’s own self-becoming. “Try to become more like yourself”, as Nietzsche would say. Maybe, ultimately, because we are so atomized – it does break down to the individual. And these are choices that are made on the individual level. That’s all we have to go with until something better begins to emerge out of our existential despair. I always like to say: “I hope that somebody can prove me wrong”. That would be very nice.
SM: Out of curiosity, what are you working on right now?
HB: As I told you, I’m involved in this “secession movement”. That’s my political game this year. Aside from that, mostly I’m writing poetry; in part, because I want to and partly it’s political. I came to feel that when there is no Revolution, you cannot do art in service of the Revolution. Q.E.D. So, if there’s only Capital, then all art is either for Capital or it’s a failure. These are the only two choices. So, I decided to write poetry because it’s guaranteed failure. So, it’s kind of a political decision. But I also wanted to do it; I moved to the country and it made me feel more poetic.
20-25 years ago I gave up writing poetry BECAUSE it was a failure and it didn’t communicate and I started to write prose instead. The result of that was very seductive. In fact, I DID communicate, people did read it. That book is translated into 14 languages. But there I say “So what?” It didn’t change my life for the better. I got invited to a lot of conferences in Europe; some of that was pleasant but got tiresome after a while.
I thought I was doing something for a cause and then I realized that it wasn’t really for a cause but rather to entertain people. There is a kind of entertainment, which is provided by the alternative media and on a broader level by the public media, like PBS in America, where you can have almost any content you want. Here, if it’s art, then it can be any content. Capitalism has a niche for everybody including the people who are fed up with it.
SM: Yes, “Buy the latest radical product in our supermarket, order it on-line NOW!”
HB: Yeah! They have all sorts of products for you. “You hate capitalism – here, buy our “anti-capitalist kit!” We’ve got it all!” It struck me then that my apparent success, which, certainly, was never a financial success was kind of… I don’t want to say it was meaningless – but I suddenly became disillusioned with certain aspects of what I was doing.
SM: You felt that you were part of this kit…
HB: Yes, to a certain extent; to the extent that I succeed, I am in danger. I remember someone telling me about 8 years ago that the Pepsi-Cola Company had organized a rave in Europe and called it “T.A.Z.” I thought “Oh-oh, now I have to completely change my ideas and maybe change my name, AGAIN.”
And poetry is something that will never sell. No one is going to read it and that’s better for me.
SM: Do you still write as “Hakim Bey”?
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