The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

October 5, 2010

Eros and Logos in Second Life
Erasure / Manque in Second Life

Quickly the installation disappears, objects deleted or returned to
database. Deletion is absolute; in spite of appearances, virtual worlds
have no memory. Digital bits are always negotiable, and what is gone is
annihilated; even energy disappears. Scripts never return - they simply
have never been, image/video evidence to the contrary. It is all
constructible beneath the sign of capital; eliminated, there is another
sign, that of genocide or the Phaistos disk.

Earlier, these happened, as if eros had anything but a formal role to
play. Listen carefully and a voice asks the expense of another skin,
against impossible odds of sexuality manifest anywhere other than the
articulated apparent membrane of the body. Someday this will change, and
felt constructs will replace visual animations. But think about this as a
reversal, and retroactive: think of skin and sexuality now, as already
gone, or the production of something organic in a vastly ancient world.
We're tumbling towards that, doing everything we can to speed things up:
annihilation to the limit, or, as the world dies, to the limitless.
There's no technological future, none organic. These dancing figure are
simulacra, already ghosts, unrealizing before their virtual, and real,
worlds disappear forever.

It always seems, even in the midst of artificial passion, suicidal, the
gibbering of membranes without thought: we have never thought, in fact or
otherwise. Look at the despair with which one grasps the last of
Wittgenstein's Tractatus, as if mysticism somehow opens a gate. But the
gate is gateless, a zen without recourse or koan, without the poetics of
mysticism. Grown up, we can read Philo again as godless, someone finding
meaning everywhere, someone always trying. There are others trying
slaughter on for size.

It is remarkable how the _bending back_ of an ikon or avatar constructs
an offering, sexualized but beyond the Pale. No one is the victor in these
encounters; everyone arises aroused, just before the erasure of the world.


in 3D across from me sits a lady dressed in black
she is on a mac.
in the distance, at 12:05 sits a man with a scan
in front of a fan.
i rock back and forth with a pearl-white netbook
that has the look of ipod, not odd, the base is
the same case.
in the air there, earnest music distributes itself
from a laptop shelf.
the bass boost level is over the top, as you'd
expect in any shop.
the man walks past me with a blackberry clutched
in hand, he's not saying much.
rain outside and another laptop arrives with
beret, hipster stir.
nothing goes on in america, we steal your wireless
mr and ms linksys for our own business.
i get email and reply, i see 3D right now, it seems
crawling in the room, out of the womb.
ready for action my arm moves away from the face,
away from the face, into space.
i can see my hand at a slightly greater distance
for instance.
turning my head, the display seems to play, there
are other things to see in 3D.
the sound follows me, will follow me, bad music
around the corner like a lurking sojourner.
closing my eyes puts my scan into sleep mode,
i hibernate next to the road.
i know no good will come from this, i look down,
frown, my finger lingers over a key, see?
the key with the question holds me in rapture,
it's a contraption.
philosophy is one as well, a contraption holding
no one in thrall, we're here that's all.
a moment to lament, the 3D lady has gone away
this rainy day.

"The often atrocious circumstances of our struggle made
it possible, in a word, for us to live out that unbearable,
heart-rending situation known as the human condition in a
candid, unvarnished way."

- Sartre

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2010 21:13:36
From: Portside Moderator <moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG>
Subject: America's Deepening Moral Crisis

America's deepening moral crisis

The language of collective compassion has been abandoned in
the US, and no politician dare even mention helping the poor

By Jeffrey Sachs
October 4, 2010

President Barack Obama is likely to face difficulty passing
progressive legislation after the November elections.

America's political and economic crisis is set to worsen
following the upcoming November elections. President Barack
Obama will lose any hope for passing progressive legislation
aimed at helping the poor or the environment. Indeed, all
major legislation and reforms are likely to be stalemated
until 2013, following a new presidential election. An already
bad situation marked by deadlock and vitriol is likely to
worsen, and the world should not expect much leadership from
a bitterly divided United States.

Much of America is in a nasty mood and the language of
compassion has more or less been abandoned. Both political
parties serve their rich campaign contributors, while
proclaiming they defend the middle class. Neither party even
mentions the poor - who now officially make up 15% of the
population, but in fact are even more numerous when we count
all those households struggling with healthcare, housing,
jobs and other needs.

The Republican party recently issued a "Pledge to America" to
explain its beliefs and campaign promises. The document is
filled with nonsense, such as the fatuous claim high taxes
and over-regulation explain America's high unemployment. It
is also filled with propaganda. A quote from President John F
Kennedy states that high tax rates can strangle the economy,
but Kennedy was speaking half a century ago, when the top
marginal tax rates were twice what they are today. Most of
all, the Republican platform is devoid of compassion.

America today presents the paradox of a rich country falling
apart because of the collapse of its core values. American
productivity is among the highest in the world. Average
national income per person is about $46,000 - enough not only
to live on, but to prosper. Yet the country is in the throes
of an ugly moral crisis.

Income inequality is at historic highs, but the rich claim
they have no responsibility to the rest of society. They
refuse to come to the aid of the destitute, and defend tax
cuts at every opportunity. Almost everybody complains, almost
everybody aggressively defends their own narrow, short-term
interests, and almost everybody abandons any pretense of
looking ahead or addressing the needs of others.

What passes for American political debate is a contest
between the parties to give bigger promises to the middle
class, mainly in the form of budget-busting tax cuts at a
time when the fiscal deficit is already more than 10% of GDP.
Americans seem to believe that they have a natural right to
government services without paying taxes. In the American
political lexicon, taxes are defined as a denial of liberty.

There was a time, not long ago, when Americans talked of
ending poverty at home and abroad. Lyndon Johnson's "war on
poverty" in the mid 1960s reflected an era of national
optimism and the belief that society should make collective
efforts to solve common problems, such as poverty, pollution
and healthcare. America in the 1960s enacted programs to
rebuild poor communities, to fight air and water pollution,
and to ensure healthcare for the elderly. Then the deep
divisions over Vietnam and civil rights, combined with a
surge of consumerism and advertising, seemed to end an era of
shared sacrifice for the common good.

For 40 years, compassion in politics receded. Ronald Reagan
gained popularity by cutting social benefits for the poor
(claiming the poor cheated to receive extra payments). Bill
Clinton continued those cuts in the 1990's. Today, no
politician even dares to mention help for poor people.

The big campaign contributors to both parties pay to ensure
their vested interests dominate political debates. That means
both parties increasingly defend the interests of the rich,
though Republicans do so slightly more than Democrats. Even a
modest tax increase on the rich is unlikely to find support
in American politics.

The result of all this is likely to be a long-term decline of
US power and prosperity, because Americans no longer invest
collectively in their common future. America will remain a
rich society for a long time to come, but one that is
increasingly divided and unstable. Fear and propaganda may
lead to more US-led international wars, as in the past

And what is happening in America is likely to be repeated
elsewhere. America is vulnerable to social breakdown because
it is a highly diverse society. Racism and anti-immigrant
sentiments are an important part of the attack on the poor ???
or at least the reason why so many are willing to heed the
propaganda against helping the poor. As other societies
grapple with their own increasing diversity, they may follow
the US into crisis.

Swedes recently gave enough votes to a rightwing, anti-
immigrant party to give it representation in parliament,
reflecting a growing backlash against the rising number of
immigrants in Swedish society. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy's
government has tried to regain popularity with the working
class by deporting Roma migrants, a target of widespread
hatred and ethnic attacks.

Both examples show that Europe, like the US, is vulnerable to
the politics of division, as our societies become more
ethnically diverse.

The lesson from America is that economic growth is no
guarantee of wellbeing or political stability. American
society has become increasingly harsh, where the richest
Americans buy their way to political power and the poor are
abandoned to their fate. In their private lives, Americans
have become addicted to consumerism, which drains their time,
savings, attention and inclination to engage in acts of
collective compassion.

The world should beware. Unless we break the ugly trends of
big money in politics and rampant consumerism, we risk
winning economic productivity at the price of our humanity.


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