Aphorisms Toward A Cultural Philosophy For The Present Time, #3: Guilt and Exculpation.

An edgy essay by Otto Paans



1. Aphorisms 1–11: Social Dictatorship

2. Aphorisms 12–24: State Power

3. Aphorisms 25–38: Guilt and Exculpation

4. Aphorisms 39–52: Confusion and Control

5. Aphorisms 53–61: The Myth of Order


Guilt and Exculpation

25. Guilt and destabilization. The staging of a conflict that the State will always win reinforces feelings of guilt and insecurity, and will be purposely used by any oppressor to induce collective anxiety in the victims, to make them ashamed, make them feel like perpetrators, above all to make them actually and wholeheartedly believe they deserve punishment and have relinquished their rights by transgressing. Once you stop asking whether the way you’re being treated is actually just, the basic goal of a dictatorship has already been achieved.

26. Despair — again. This is why cynicism is quiet desperation: it is the accomplishment of a fundamental subjective shift in the oppressed. The oppressed start to feel that no matter what happens, their rights can be or are already relinquished. In short: their choices and actions will make no difference whatsoever and cannot serve as a justifiable plea to be “let off the hook.”

27. Subjective deformation. Once people have the constant feeling that they have to be “let off the hook” and must beg for mercy from their oppressors, or convince them of their innocence, the fundamental subjective shift has deformed their very mode of being in the world. One starts to see oneself as trespassing by simply existing. Every little bump against the rules is perceived as a moral shortcoming, a moral flaw, a moral sin, and it reinforces the dominant position of the oppressor. But this is only because one lacks the courage to dare to think for oneself and ask whether the rules and laws themselves are right; whom they serve; how they came to be; and what influence actual citizens had on them.

28. The great fiction: And if one comes to the conclusion that there are no courts of appeal; that influence on law-giving is void; that one’s voice is meaningless in the face of the unreason of oppression: then at that very moment, one must see through the fiction of being a citizen of a State. This is the narrative of all States and State-like social institutions. You are one of us; or, better, you are owned by us, and you had better live up to it, and accept our benevolent protection. Like all protection rackets, this threat is usually not made explicitly, but instead it’s is chafed into one’s very existential texture.

29. Citizen. This word is an abstraction, a monstrosity, a mask, and a lie. It is a bill of rights that can be revoked at any moment; it’s a bill of obligations one did not ask for, and did not explicitly or even implicitly consent to (The Social Contract That Never Was); and above all it serves the existing powers of domination, and is indeed the very resource that keeps them functioning. Of course, those in power are not giving up their easily-won resources. They simply call them “citizens” (you lucky citizens!, be grateful for your citizenship!, and always remember that we can revoke it!) and tell them they have to behave as “productive members of society.” The citizen is that tragic creature who truly believes he is “free” only because others have told him so. This Is The Land O’ Liberty! You Have Civil Rightstm! Dignity Is Just Around The Corner! If someone tells me that I’m free, either he is saying something irrelevant, because I know it already, or else he’s the jailor who can lock me up at any moment, but simply hides it behind his smiley face and polite manners for the time being.

30. Control. Because we know this non-conceptually, because it is ingrained in us non-self-consciously in a myriad of ways, we now demand interpassivity. Do not stand too close. Do not express an opinion that upsets me. Do not question the demands I pose on you. Do not deviate from the pre-set norms. Everything you think or express must be well within the framework of postmodern nihilism and coercive moralist identitarian multiculturalism. State-imposed demands take control away in one area of life, so people claim them back in other areas. We are not a society anymore, but merely a collection of anxious individuals. We closed our minds in a cycle of perpetual obsessive-compulsive behavior. In the endless here and now, we revolve like points in a virtual space around our own empty cores that we are obliged to endlessly define and re-define according to a logic of endless ultra-capitalist production.

31. Self-absorption. This is the ultimate distraction. It lets people retreat into a fantasy world that they can inhabit and project onto the real world. The theme park and social media are two developments in a continuous spectrum of the projection of self-absorbed fantasies. In a theme park, one imagines oneself, for the time being, to be in a fairytale world; with virtual reality, this world is digitally created and far more immersive. It does not have to do with the cumbersome constraints of creating a physical and therefore corruptible, decaying environment. It is directly wired into our dopamine production, and it’s available every hour of the day and night. With such tools, people cannot become anything but self-absorbed, suffering from digital myopia and digital tunnel-vision. And all the rest that cannot be seen, is projected from within the safe, myopic, tunnelled zone. The demand for “safe space” arises because the intimate spaces in which people used to feel safe have been projected outwards into the public space. So, people demand that the place where they hide from the pressures of the world is mirrored in public space. This is a dangerous fantasy, because public spaces necessarily involve interactions with other people.

32. Obsessive coercive moralism as social self-distraction. The need to lash out and control others is just a self-distraction from the pre-conscious knowledge that one is owned and can be punished and socially obliterated at any moment.It is both the ultimate ego-booster and the much-needed distraction from a much-too-harsh reality. On one hand, it gives people a sense of control and autonomy that they can control, browbeat, “call out,” and generally police others in a display of horizontal violence; and on the other hand, it self-distracts them from paying too much attention to their own predicament of being wage-slaves and victims of the coercive authoritarian neoliberal democratic nation-State.

33. Class consciousness of the present time. What Marx called “class consciousness” is when oppressed people suddenly realize that they are in the same predicament as many others who share the same social-institutional status and the same oppression. However, Marx mistakenly assumed that this would lead to camaraderie, solidarity, a shared identity, and a collective effort towards emancipation and self-realization. Needless to say, sharply on the contrary, it instead led to a multiplicity of competing, colliding, warring identitarian factions, all of whom claimed to uphold Marxist socialism, but were ultimately every bit as much divided as before, while at the same time believing and claiming that everyone wanted Marxist socialism to be realized — by coercive authoritarian means, of course. Now, substitute “neoliberalism” for “Marxism” and “democracy” for “socialism.” In this substitutional sense, everyone who is living in a contemporary coercive authoritarian neoliberal democratic nation-State, and is not a member of the power elite, is in effect a desperately unhappy child of the failed marriage of “Mr MarxismàNeoliberalism” and “Mrs SocialismàDemocracy.” They fuck you up, your Mum and your Dad. So, what is to be done?

34. Self-justification. There is nothing people won’t do once they imagine they are on the good side of history. This unshakeable certainty underlies all groupthink, whether of the cultural, religious, moral, or sociopolitical kind. In their rituals of excommunication, those deemed the outgroup are attacked and expelled by the collective ingroup. The excommunicated outsider represents, as it were, “The People’s Enemy,” “the nomad,” or “the untouchable.” More precisely, The People’s Enemy/ nomad/untouchable represents all the taboos in defense of which the ingroup’s moral cathedrals and ivory bunkers have been erected. But, by simply existing outside the moral and sociopolitical framework of the ingroup, one creates, among the members of the ingroup, a deep, gnawing insecurity about the eternality, imperviousness, and permanence of their dogmas. And so, they lash out yet again, with desperate vehemence, against the outsider.

35. Moral superiority. To believe in one’s own moral superiority, only one claim is necessary: that one fights on the good side. From that point on, everything is permitted. This is the fatal flaw of all violent revolutions and revolutionary leaders: once they set themselves up with an appropriate justification, there is no end to the atrocities. In so doing, they self-consciously or unself-consciously implement classical “the sufficiently valuable end always justifies the means” type of instrumental reasoning.

36. Identification of the subject with its dogma. Groupthink requires that members fully identify with the dogmas of the group; or, more properly speaking, that they become the incarnation of the dogmas themselves. “I am The Truth in Human Form” is the explicit or implicit slogan of every zealot. By internal negation, “You are not The Truth in Human Form” is the defiant motto of every outsider who is not prepared to comply with, heed, or obey hegemonic group ideology and norms. Hence the members of the ingroup must play the great mirror game. Charles Manson, for example, made the acolytes of his cult regularly play “mirror games” with him, whereby whatever Manson said or shouted was instantly said or shouted back at him by his cultic acolytes. This is a proven strategy for speeding up the process of identitarian mutual identification between two individuals, or between an individual and the rest of the group. “God Bless America!”; “We are One Nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for all!”; “We are the Marines!”; “Allahu akbar!”; “We are MAGA!” Social media in general, and Twitter in particular, are highly effective online mechanisms for speeding up identitarian mutual identification. They are all just so many ways of expediting the manacling and enslavement of people’s minds. The problem is not merely the identitarian mutual identification process itself, but above all the crucial (and profoundly false) presupposition that in order to belong to a group, one must sacrifice their individuality and their ability to think, feel, and act for themselves. This presupposition is a crime against humanity as such.

37. On heroism and self-sacrifice. Outside the context of identitarian groupthink, heroism and sacrifice in fact mean that they are exceptional acts that ought to be treated with the highest respect, insofar as they are expressions of altruistic, dignitarian, and wholehearted individual commitment. But to twist the meaning of such actions for the purposes of cementing and priming identitarian groupthink is grotesque, reprehensible, and utterly disrespectful to those who have sacrificed themselves on moral and sociopolitical grounds that are wholly different from what identitarian demagogues cynically, speciously, and self-servingly attribute to them.

38. On identitarian demagogues. Therefore, treat the incantations and utterances and of all identitarian demagogues who capitalize on others’ sincere self-sacrifice, with a grain of salt; or if necessary, push back in self-defense: treat their rhetoric as utter nonsense. Identitarian demagogues strategically twist rationally justified and morally right motives solely for political gain, and there is almost no greater vice than that. So identitarian demagogues are inherently unfit to lead or represent any collective whatsoever. Anyone who is prepared to resort to such moral contortions will never put the interest of those he supposedly democratically represents, first.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 20 September 2021

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