Following a discussion on MR I wrote this as an attempt to amplify and clarify, particularly relative to the state. Anarchy is highly individualist, and those from antiquity who are known as innovators – Aeschylus, Archimedes, Socrates, Pericles et al – we also know as individuals. Everyone’s an individual, you might say, but how does that explain the classical period?
Modern Greece is just as state-minded as other European nations, though luckily exists in a type of stasis that preserves their heritage. Over in Syria, the Roman columns of Palmyra that are the very picture of picturesque stasis, are possibly going to get run over by Isil on their way to establishing a proto-Caliphate or Islamic State.
It’s not just the state that is so pernicious. What they call the free-market is actually governed by intractable rules, as we can see in the case of the leftist Syriza’s showdown with its European creditors. If the state is inherently against anarchic traditions, capital is even more so.
In the global system, every particle of monetary value is micro-managed to an absurd level. So, the capitalist nations – which include most of the world – are actually managed by capital systems that are on the lines of cybernetics or a computer data-base/robot.
Capitalism is supposedly not an ideology in the sense Marxism is; it’s just free competition. Except, it’s not free; as noted, it’s micro-managed on a global scale. As an ideology, Marxism seeks to change socio-economic systems. Capitalism has no such ideology, nevertheless still does change reality since, as noted, it is akin to cybernetics. Any traditional community, say a Greek island, that exists in relative stasis, has a type of anarchic energy. The villagers and the inhabitants exist mainly as individuals with no particular agenda other than to live the daily round, shop at the market, trawl for lobsters, sightsee, recite Homer etc.
The idea of stasis enables the tradition to speak for itself. I actually lived in Spain as a kid under Franco’s reign and the same was true then in the 60s, evocation of local color. Anything which essentially does nothing to alter things, such as stasis or anarchy, is a type of natural energy.
If there is social disorder in these communities (as there is in Greece with the anti-austerity elderly protesters) the local police are called in. Order and disorder exist side-by-side. This is actually the natural state of affairs and any attempt to change it simply destroys the natural energy.
Capital is very destructive since while seemingly non-ideological and invisible, is in reality a control and management system becoming more cybernetic by the week. This means it has an ontological effect, an effect on the energy of communities. What Marxism does with ideology, capital does by stealth.
The state or the corporate state is the biggest anti anarchic force in existence. We cannot therefore approach European ontology by way of the state. It’s not a political argument, it’s actually a classical one to do with restraint in all things.
The classical is a type of freedom that I relate to Tao, energy. Bruce Lee as I see it was more classical in his approach, not robotic. Lee was very aware of his Chinese heritage, but was against the imposition of strict tradition in kung fu styles - that argument is quite complicated. Routines that are imposed are like formulaic exercises. But to be “classic” means having an immediate felt expression. One cannot act systemically and still act spontaneously.
Relating this to communities, anarchy is there in the way places are governed by common consent, not imposition. This allows for conflicts to exist, to not need to be resolved, debate. Drama. I mean quite literally films and plays. The self-sufficiency of a small Norwegian town lends Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People an ethical context you would not otherwise find, as the townsfolk turn against the good doctor.
At the other end of the scale, Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 has a disparate group of police and outlaws becoming ethically entwined as they face a prolonged siege by an unseen enemy that knows no fear (shades of Isil). There’s even time for a dash of romance for the condemned hero Wilson and policewoman Leigh. Carpenter’s nominally city-setting is more of a homage to Hawks’ Rio Bravo, even down to Lieutenant Bishop chucking Wilson the gun as the spooks emerge from a corridor.
Wilson’s line “I was born out of time” you could imagine is an attitude Carpenter shares, since he wrote the script. The West of yore is an archetypal example of individualism and self-sufficiency. I recall from the 60s The High Chaparral, set after the Mexican war, with the Chaparral operating as a sort of fiefdom with Hispanic connections in the hinterlands. Ethical drama is made from rugged self-reliance and ethnicity, the Spanishness of Victoria and her compadres set against the more dour rigging of the Chaparral speaks eloquently for racial heritage and traditions.
This is where I have to say that nothing should get in the way of racial epithets, since they presuppose racial traits. Modern dramas tend to be “color-blind” as if it’s a benefit that one is of no particular breed. If you allow for some anarchy in the way places are governed, though, the opposite is the case. Black Harlem, Spanish Harlem, that type of thing, where neighbourhoods are under informal rule in terms of ethnicity. That actually is a type of anarchy because there is no formal government. What you generally get is some civil disorder, gangs if you like, and law enforcement.
That situation is just made for drama in in its ethical context. What I am saying is that that type of anarchy enables races to be self-governing to quite a degree. There will be some disorder and law enforcement. Not only is there a natural energy to these communities, there are no formal restrictions on the use of terms like “kike” or “chink”. There are much fewer formal rules so speech is freer and spontaneous.
The fact is, societies of the past were much more individualist and spontaneous. There are no bars on thought or speech so you get racial tropes as in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. Racial tropes are a sign of informality and not the formal rules of government. Therefore, if you want to express a racial context, you can’t do it formally by way of the nation-state. The formality does not allow for free expression; anything rule-bound imposes itself on the individual.
On MR it seems caricatures are allowed as it’s a non-rule-bound situation. In the modern world the state prohibits this so what you are dealing with is some abstract, behind the scenes influence. This is the essence of a conspiracy, but it’s completely the product of an abstract mode of thought that the state engenders. Even if there were a conspiracy, you are still trapped by abstraction. As noted previously, you can’t confuse Amy Winehouse with a conspiracy as they’re two totally different things.
Obviously one could make a caricature of Amy Winehouse which would make a great deal of sense; the state might not “get” it which suggests anti-anarchy and anti-racism are closer than some might imagine. Another thing that strikes me is that the Eurovision song contest has morphed into almost a freak show for transgenders and anything goes entertainment as Europe widens its doors. Almost the idea of ethnicity is lost in the mix. There are still good acts to be found, but they tend to get submerged by the globalising brand (next stop China).
Where I live in S England, immigrants from the east tend to resemble Konrad Lorenz’s geese as they waddle round with their brood. They have truly been imprinted by anti-anarchy. The crux of the argument is we, the people, live off the land and not off the state. We need to be more like the French who do not allow their small farmsteaders to be conglomerated into the capitalist mix.
The mix is toxic because it amounts to an ultimate nothingness. Livestock herds are brought indoors so we don’t know they’re there. The argument is ecological because societies also have an ecology. An ecology of living with animals and an ecology of race. Sheep-husbandry is equally vital to political commentary or more so in a way.
The contrast with China is worth making here. Tao is celebrated in the famous dragon-dance as a type of untameable oneness. Historically, this principle is almost the opposite to the Chinese ideal of harmony, and in practice Confucianism aims at harmony with the anarchic energy of Tao as a curb on the power of the emperor. Harmony is something of a double-edged sword in that it gives the emperor power, and this is the basic difference with Europe which practised feudalism. Feudalism is actually quite an anarchic system, and was backed-up by the Church in its iconography of struggle and battle between good and evil (see In The Mouth of Madness).
The Church, as I’ve been trying to make out, has quite classical roots; in place of Apollo is Christ and in place of Dionysis is sin, lust. Although the fallen angel is supposed to be evil, the whole structure depends on the battle being fought. Without that battle you are left with pure goodness which just doesn’t exist. You need Judas in order for the whole thing to work dramatically and ethically.
So, the link to ancient Greece is there. The underlying message is that neither order nor chaos are good or bad in themselves; they define each other. This is remarkably similar to the concept of Tao, particularly as specified by Bruce Lee. This is what leads me to think Lee is quite classical in his approach to king fu.
Lee’s films are direct expressions of a Fist of Fury. This is not necessarily a Chinese trait. The Assassin by Hou Hsiao-hsien is up for a palme d’or at Cannes; a truly elaborate, florid, hypnotically atmospheric visual epic of encounters glimpsed through dappled woods and ornate interiors, of a female kung fu warrior who glides around mysteriously. That gilded harmony makes it quite Chinese, but less classical.
Harmony, as I say, is a double-edged sword; a typical Western view of the Chinks was Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon comicstrip. Someone with no moral compunctions. The Dragon Lady in Terry and the Pirates is likewise morally dubious (but who cares with those features?). Hong Kong used to be very Terry , with its carnivalesque water-traffic. Like a Roman Prefecture, the indigenous culture was self-sufficient with local institutions overseeing political-economy.
Chinese tend to aim at harmony, but their saving grace is anarchic Tao. Harmony, like Apollo, is the ultimate nullifier. Anarchy isn’t anti-social, it’s anti imposition. Therefore, it’s an essential counter to reason and any man-made attempt at harmony. Look on it as a type of gaiety, of loose spontaneity of a free people. Order cannot be established without its counter, because that would be stultified inertia. Bruce Lee uses the word constipation for set routines that are pre-formulated and negate any direct, unthought expression. Attack is defence (Artist of Life, page 158).
This to me means that Lee is being classical at least as much as he is being Chinese; it’s known that his views created enemies among the Chinese diaspora. To me, classicism is something that saw its peak in Greece, but differences are of degree, not kind. The technical perfection of Greek sculpture has never been bettered; that is set against Dionysic expression.
Pure technique is Apple, which happens to be the biggest (gay) company today. Their control is total, which is the negative thing. No restraint and no hint of chaos (gods forbid, ducky). I say “gay” because of their preciousness, everything just so. Steven Fry is their biggest fan. This is to be distinguished from gay in the Greek sense (all elitist societies are gay in a Blackadder sense, aren’t they?) There is quite a fad now for retro-tech and I think the reason is there. Technique set against expression or imperfection. Here’s a quote from Lee:
Many different “stylists” have become desensitized, patternised robots. They become these organized form, victims of conditioning handed down for thousands of years. A martial artist is never a replica of “this” style or “that” style. He is definitely not a product but a live individual, and remember, the individual is always more important than the system.For “individual” read man, woman, race.. anything which is not equivalent. Liberal “rights”, which are another type of social management, go against all these individual traits. Post-50s, through the hippy rebellion, the various “rights” have seen the state impose its doctrine of nothingness. In the US today killer cops are the end result (no neighborhoods, no compunctions). Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, the first introspective eco-conscious concept-album resounds with neighbourhood in a Black streetwise sensibility sense – The Ecology, Dionysis Holler (dig it).
Artist of Life, page 157
The less efficient the state the better; R Crumb and others fled to France. His view everything is turning into junk may not be far off. Everything has to be equivalent so we have feminism and then gay marriage. Germaine Greer said of Jane Fonda:
Poor old Jane has a replacement hip but not a replacement brain.… a feminist speaking of a woman’s free choice. As Fonda said, it gave her “ten years of work”, and unlike Bardot she chose to act. Free choice. That is the mark of a society that recognizes antagonism, the relationship of predator to prey, harvest, intermediary (Levi-Strauss). From that relationship come materials, crops, woods, leather, hay and horses that have extempore qualities. Remember, Bardot is a lover of animals, not “humankind”. To a society that doesn’t recognize antagonism, everything is equivalent. In Godard’s Le Weekend, capital is a metaphor for junk.
Whereas for Freud capital signifies Eros, to Godard Eros has value in itself, like the grandiloquent sensuality of the Taj Mahal. Beehives, which happen to be in decline, are Eros supplying the abundance of honey, not money. Eco-value. Also artistic value, what I like to call craftwork. Here’s a quote on Russian icons:
Three to four days are spent preparing the lime, cedar and poplar board. Rabbit-skin glue is then carefully boiled to prime the board. A muslin cloth is glued in place and 12 layers of gesso applied. Once dry it’s sanded to perfection. Only then can a scene be created.Not unlike a process of revealing the material, chipping away at clay (a metaphor by Lee). Sir Richard Temple notes:
The calm presence, the inner contemplation.. is the artistic energy that radiates through hundreds of years.Lest you think I’m being religious, similar remarks apply to Roman frescoes at Pompeii. Here’s a quote from Georg Basilitz:
To create something that hasn’t been seen before, you have to react against something. But when I go to the Venice Biennale today it seems that young artists are too close together. Where are the scandals, where is the conflict today?
It’s about content, and where there’s content conflict, contradiction. Religious conflict is prevalent, I cop to it. Were there no conflict there would be no ecology, so you’re welcome to it. Religion is prejudice by nature, the Madonna is a woman. Also, creative outsider types tends to reveal similar attitudes. Pope Francis hasn’t watched TV since 1990, likewise R Crumb, Harlan Ellison.
The prejudice we see nowadays is towards equivalence, paraphrased as liberal rights. Being prejudicial in the other, Rightist, way though, is simply recognizing individuals as men, women or race as distinct from any sterile system.
This harks back to CC Beck’s quote on stereotypes; they are useful devices to summarise reality. An orthodox Jew in a tall hat is very easy to distinguish, and en masse fairly easy to caricature as resembling human penguins. That has a long tradition in Western artifice. Prejudice is mainly the ability to detect an individual who is other, man, woman, race. In ethology it would be predator and prey. If there was no other, everything would be equivalent.
More to the point, equivalence is a form of junk, of nothingness or sterility. It is a system of prefabricated reality, not free expression. How does one avoid such systems? As I said, by having a classical sense of restraint. If you take the medieval Church, it was not a temporal power as such but a spiritual one, presiding over a feudal system, something relatively anarchic. A system that is highly organized is never anarchic; for example, Isil have no conception of either order or chaos in their advance. They have no knowledge of, or place any value on, the ancient Aramaic culture that was infused with Greco-Roman forms. The only things they have are nihilism and money.
Antagonisms, not rights, are a type of natural order. Even thought is a type of energy, creative disorder, not prefabricated rules. The structures, as Levi-Strauss shows, are antagonistic. This reflects on social structure and speech patterns. Symbols are also antagonistic; a painting of the Madonna breastfeeding is a potent symbol of marriage (to God). Only women can marry (men) in that context. Maybe the Church should get onto it?
To do without systems is also good practice if they are increasingly cybernetic. Complex systems can become chaotic probably because there’s just no getting away from it. Then we get something that is both sterile and impossible logically to fathom. Natural systems are simple because antagonistic. Symbols, icons, myths, ibis, hieroglyphs.