In defence of postmodern furries

In defence of postmodern furries

Please don’t imagine that I am criticising Jordan Peterson when I say that he has abandoned the real world. Because he’s absolutely right: we should have never left the oceans.

At the Oxford Union, in his latest book and on Twitter, the Psychology professor, now YouTube sensation and bestselling author, has been busy tendering to his group of predominantly male, frenzied conservative crusaders. Actively feeding them more antiquated, half-chewed thoughts on individualism, personhood and gender & class hierarchies: in part through the medium of some hilarious Tumblr-esque dissections of biblical stories and myths to demystify these concepts and how they are relevant to the human condition.

To explain his success as he might, picture David and Goliath: the triumphant small man facing down a much stronger, giant adversary. In his version of events, he and his followers represent David, while postmodernism and the “social justice warriors” (SJWs) represent Goliath, or some shit.  The classic underdog story that everybody loves. Except his underdog story and the dramatic rise in his popularity can largely be attributed to a video that was widely shared featuring Peterson disparaging trans students on campus.

I suppose it’s easy to understand his appeal, his words read like political ramblings from H.P. Lovecraft on bath salts even when looking at a fairly placid profile featured in the NYT. Reactionary white men will be thrilled with his loathing for the SJWs and his deranged machismo diet of eating nothing but salted meat. Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that “there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.” Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that “feminists avoid criticising Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.” Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds of “Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.”. The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: “Compassion as a vice” and “Toughen up, you weasel.” One thing that is common across these demographics of his base is their ineptitude in talking to—and overt hostility toward—women. Of course to address this, he applies the melodramatic rhetoric of mythical struggle between chaos and order to explain their fuckless everyday situation.

“Culture,” one of his typical arguments goes, “is symbolically, archetypally, mythically male”—and this is why resistance to male dominance is unnatural. Men represent order, and “Chaos—the unknown—is symbolically associated with the feminine.” Keeping with this and his many soliloquies about modernity that he attributes, in part, to ‘cultural Marxism’, Peterson imbues life with a sense of lurking danger: the world is liberally peopled with sociopaths and psychopaths and even the dullest of conservative academics are actually ideological shock troops in a cosmic battle. He styles himself as a culture warrior against the forces of postmodernism, a worldview which, he says, is “an assault on everything that’s been established since the Enlightenment : rationality: empiricism : science.” He lambasts academia and casts off ‘postmodernists’, a catch-all he uses for any modern thought that questions the superiority of dominant Western political and scientific institutions—from Marxism, to French post-structuralism, to contemporary gender and race theory—again as “an assault on the metaphysical substrate of our culture”. Yet nowhere in his published writings does Peterson seem bothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy—that were essential to maintain Enlightenment ideals—connects too easily with such nascent viciousness as misogyny, anti-semitism and Islamophobia. He might argue that his ‘maps of meaning‘ aim at helping lost individuals rather than racists, ultra-nationalists, or imperialists.

Like Peterson, many Enlightenment and hyper-masculinist thinkers saw compassion as a vice and urged insecure men to harden their hearts against the weak on the grounds that the latter were biologically and culturally inferior. Hailing myth and dreams as the repository of fundamental human truths, they became popular because they addressed a widely felt spiritual hunger: of men looking desperately for maps of meaning in a world they found opaque and uncontrollable. It was against this (eerily familiar) background—a “revolt against the modern world,” as the title of Evola’s 1934 book put it—that demagogues emerged so quickly in twentieth-century Europe and managed to exalt national and racial myths as the true source of individual and collective health. The drastic individual makeover demanded by the visionaries turned out to require a mass, coerced retreat from failed liberal modernity into an idealised traditional realm of myth and ritual. And this is where, for people searching for some kind of spiritual nourishment, Peterson considers himself to function akin to the Shaman. A sorcerer and an orator of ancient knowledge (he himself maintaining a clinical practice, which draws influence from shamanic ritual – and this is actually the most consistent commitment of his). But, he and his influencers are no more a Shaman than I would be if I started yelling intellectual aggro on top of the Fjords. He frightens his enthusiasts and patients, in order to be better able to soothe.

In sharp contrast, the extract below is from an ethnography by Barbora Půtová describing the etymology of the Shaman:

The Upper Palaeolithic gave rise to many works of art including paintings and engravings depicting these unearthly beings integrating anthropomorphous features, often taking the form of sorcerers. Shamans are usually interpreted to be Upper Palaeolithic sorcerers who can be seen as Earth deities, Great Spirit or the Lord of the Animals. The anthropomorphous potential of sorcerers is often depicted with anatomic features of animals such as a bison or deer.

Their animal sexual activity, fertility, vitality and strength are in some cases demonstrated with an erect phallus which is complemented with an animal tail. The images of sorcerers can be also regarded as a shaman during a magical ritual that was significant for the community which used the cave. Religious rituals played a prominent role in the society as they consist of the “ability to enter into ecstatic states via a number of techniques and to create strong, emotionally binding relationships with other people”.

Many aspects of Upper Palaeolithic art document that caves were used for shamanism and illustrate the ability to project introspective images on the surface. Furthermore, elements of cave art reflect the structure of the mind derived from internal feelings, dreams, memories, visions or altered states of consciousness. Prehistoric sites with cave art include shaman equipment, including percussion instruments, flutes made of bird bones and heel imprints indicating to ritual dances. The structure of the cave symbolises a journey into unconsciousness and a lower (under)world, representing the shaman’s inner journey. The use of deep caves was taken to be a symptom of magical intent. Shamanismus could have played a crucial role in cognitive and social evolution as altered states of consciousness facilitated adaptation to ecologic and social changes in the Upper Palaeolithic.

Further examination of shamanistic mythology and practice would evoke a more accurate comparison, one which doesn’t look like a right-wing fantasist slowly degenerating into Christopher Lee’s Dracula. In the 30,000 years it has been since people first started depicting strange beings whose bodies symbolised the duality of the man and the animal, these beings integrating animal and human elements acquired a new dimension. Postmodern relativism and the desire to seize the human substance with alternative resources gave rise to a new type of a sorcerer — half human and half animal, known as a furry.

The oldest example of one of these [Shaman] can be found in Chauvet Cave in Ardèche (ca. 30 000 BC), it depicts a figure part human and part bison. At the end of the leg of the bison there are parallel lines hanging down. The body of the bison with a horned head is directed towards a vulva, a pubic triangle and two tapering legs of Venus that is being transformed in the back part of a feline, suggesting some sort of chase involving human and animal coitus.

Where a Shaman’s ecstasy is perceived as an altered state of consciousness, setting on a journey to other worlds—to achieve for e.g. successful hunting, good weather, healing—a furry acquires extraordinary abilities when entering the virtual reality in the form of a personal furry. The virtual space creates possibilities for constructing new identities that may provide more perceptual experiences, fantasies and illusions. Furries can change their own representation in cyberspace. Cyberspace opens to furries according to their needs and provides them ecstatic freedom, discovering new worlds. Shamans and furries thus trespass the threshold of the profane world, though in different times, in order to modify their original personality and find new existential horizons of human feelings and cognition.

Furries—in-part, defined by postmodernity (in that they are procedural identities, based on constant choice, search, configuration and representation)—are a liminal being in this sense, just as Shamans are, functioning to achieve a form of spiritual liberation. While closer interrogation of Peterson’s claims reveal his ‘ageless insights’ as a typical and painfully confined, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations. But it’s important for his followers to consider that it is not the duty of intellectuals to be reassuring and edifying, to create a serious world for adult children to wrap themselves up in. Intellectuals are supposed to be critics not clerics. If they do have a role, it is to provide tools to weather the sometimes enervating, painful, and confusing path of reflection and thought, not to allow for its easy interruption with images of glory and government-mandated girlfriends.

In his war with postmodernism, as elsewhere, Peterson wants to somehow keep the Enlightenment intact as a positive value, without realising its actual stakes or costs and never identifying the evils caused by belief in profit, slavery, genocide, and imperialism but will also surmise that a belief in egalitarianism, in this postmodern age of ‘cultural Marxism’ (he uses these interchangeably), leads straight to the guillotine or Gulag.

With his reactionary views and avuncular displays, Peterson functions far more as a huckster than the shaman, handing out quick fixes and vague sentiment, using his semi-related field to prey on college-aged males. Little of his work can be classed as ‘philosophy’. I’m not sure that he’s ever acknowledged—or read—any studies and findings that would still be credible in either the sociology or anthropology disciplines today. And it isn’t really politics or science either. Instead, his work is a kind of grappling with the excesses of what human beings have done or believed in the past, in the hope that it clarifies something about the present. If Peterson has a particular skill, beyond his undoubted eloquence, it’s the ability to move so seamlessly back and forth between scientific research and metaphysics, the primordial and the modern, that his audience scarcely notices the joins. And that’s the crux. That’s how Peterson is effectively able to sell his brand of intellectual and political fearlessness to them: imposing a world of mysticism upon the world that already exists, which is one of complexities that he doesn’t have the ability to grasp.


Disclaimer: This is a Frankenstein’s monster of an essay in that it’s a conglomerate of my own writing/research and some excerpts pulled directly from articles by Pankaj Mishra and Will DaviesI’ve written a kind of auxiliary blog piece for this essay on my Patreon. 

Theresa May, the dread of the mollusc

Theresa May, the dread of the mollusc

“The many … whom one chooses to call the people, are indeed a collection, but only as a multitude, a formless mass, whose movement and action would be elemental, irrational, savage, and terrible. […] Public opinion deserves to be esteemed as much as to be despised; to be despised for its concrete consciousness and expression, to be esteemed for its essential fundamental principle, which only shines, more or less dimly, through its concrete expression.”
― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

What Theresa May represents is the final meaninglessness of parliamentary democracy. Destitution in the UK is prevalent with many relying on food banks to stay alive, services are being sold off to exploitative companies, housing is unaffordable and mental illness is rife. Change is sought by the people. Media institutions and politicians largely have no solutions – they’re disarticulate, phatic and reactionary. Stare too long into our Prime Minister’s ghoulish face and it’s hard to tell what the point of all of this is. It’s a constant reminder that this world is not a sane or a rational place.

~

None of this was supposed to happen. Corbyn’s poor polling was alleged to remain static throughout the campaign and the Tory’s were going to win a significant, consolidating majority. This general election had been called precisely because Theresa May thought that she would appeal to the British public as a symbolic eclecticism of imperialism. She’d sit in cabinet meetings and boast of how she would be a proud mummy to this great empire. The UK under her leadership would subduct large areas of Europe and she’d spank the botty of anybody who questioned her authority and ‘difficult woman’ reputation which she’d assimilated for herself among colleagues. This is still how May presents herself and she still believes it. Now that she has to campaign in public, the factor which has changed is that the electorate are beginning to see the horrifying grimace on her face as the bile glugs back down her throat when she stops talking for a moment. They’re seeing how much she despises them, how utterly discomposed she is to be in their presence. To combat the Labour surge in the opinion polls, the Tories are relaunching their campaign, they need to transform her.

The Conservative Party’s campaign manager, Lynton Crosby, steps into a chamber filled with senior Tory officials. After some dull greetings and discussion, a member of the group stands up and says “Mr Crosby, the IRA terrorist sympathiser smear against Corbyn has largely been ineffectual – we’re losing ground, the poll gap is nowhere near as sizeable as it was when we called the election”. Crosby’s lips curl and he turns a shade of pink but this swiftly transitions into a glazed smile. “You’re right, this is a disaster” he says, “It’s different to how I imagined. Her reputation has superseded her abilities. She looks distinctly uncomfortable around the general public and she’s turning this campaign into a vanity project”. He paces toward the other side of the room, “Gentlemen, I know that you are all thinking ‘how do we turn this around?’ Well…” Crosby turns from the group and violently kicks an odd looking instrument, a great humanoid hunk of steampunk machinery with children coiled and sprawled into the mechanisms to operate the gears. The machine speaks, it’s sentient and it has an answer for them. As its creator, Lynton Crosby is the only one who understands it, only he can translate the dialect. The other men in the room, looking nervous, patiently await a solution for their campaign woes. “We’ve got it!” Crosby suddenly exclaims. He begins to sermonise, mostly-incomprehensible babble spews from his now foaming mouth “[…] We’re going to be focussing on Brexit and we’re now going to adopt the Labour campaign strategy of convincing video messages outlining our position, posted online for the public’s viewing”, he excitedly announces. “That’s how we will gain the assurances of our voters once again and the Prime Minister avoids the agonising contact with them!” The men in the room nod in unison and one by one begin to stand and applaud. Crosby signals at the door to the chamber and gleefully beckons “Come on in, girls!”, swim suit models hurriedly enter with champagne bottles and glasses. He presses a button on an old stereo system, pop music plays and the room breaks out into awkward flailing and celebratory handshaking.

Theresa May was next to appear on the Sky News programme, The Battle for Number 10. Throughout the campaign, she’d rejected one-on-one debate proposals with Jeremy Corbyn because her record in government is emphatically indefensible. Service cuts, big business favoured policy and a poorly handled Brexit process so far would all be easy targets for Corbyn. However, this programme was the Tory voter’s consolation prize, this was an opportunity to see their herald shine while being questioned and interviewed – who would believe it – in the same building as the Labour leader.

She arrived in the studio and took to the stage, her voice tremulous as she exchanged greetings with the show’s presenter, Faisal Islam. As she looks out into the audience, her smile gradually fades and the mollusc-like similarity in her skin tone and eye colour is more pronounced. One after the other, she is asked questions by members and she responds to them in turn. “What Jeremy Corbyn is proposing is nationalisation and higher taxes for the wealthy. This is simply impractical and unelectable!”, she proclaims and reveals another crinkled smile. “Now this…” as she gestures toward a toothless child freezing to death “this is real politics”. Murmuring and heavy sighs can be heard from the viewers, they’ve known her to use this rhetoric before. Halfway through the questioning, she insists on going backstage briefly and is granted permission. After a momentary pause in the studio, she returns, hastily cramming tadpoles into her mouth and then indicates to Faisal that she’s ready for another question. Theresa May makes one final appeal to the audience, “Many of my colleagues have called me a ‘bloody difficult woman’, this is because when I passionately believe in my position on a policy or negotiation, nobody will interrupt my determination to deliver what’s best for the people of Britain”. She begins to twitch nervously and coughs from the spiders stuck in her throat, haplessly trying to recall what the next part to her culminating speech is. Her skin seething, she creaks into a smile once again, and blurts out at last, “We make absolutely clear, no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”, the crowd erupts into frenzies of cheers, clapping and sobbing. The camera pans to them, they have arisen from their seats. Tiny bow ties are visible in the audience, along with dripping brows and a woman holding out her hands as though they are akimbo pistols and mouths “Boom!”. The camera operator reverts back to May’s face, “Subsume yourselves”, she utters under her breath, “You will all be eating dog food”. They have just applauded the abyss.

A manifesto for the end of the world

A manifesto for the end of the world

A foreword by a zealous ideologue for the doctrines of smallness, insipidness and absolute hatred 

We are a great country. With great people. In the last five years I have heard your stories, your hopes and your aspirations. And I have heard too your frustrations.

The countless people working as hard as they possibly can and still struggling to pay the bills. The young people with great ambitions but great anxieties about the future. The dedicated staff of our NHS, who are deeply concerned about its funding. And all those who have served our country, are now retired, and ask where our country is going.

This manifesto is inspired by you.

National renewal

A simple truth known by many Brits is that we’ve had our chance, the world is dying. Climate change will ensure a great death for us all but remaining ahead of the world’s evil is all we can do in the meantime. In order to become a nation subsumed by this reality, we as a party are renewing our traditions of striving for fundamental change for the good people. Our pledges to you are as follows:

–  As a party of eugenicists, of antinatalists and ungulate herbivores with an appetite for blood: the weak, the homeless and their dogs should be harvested for soup to help reduce the scale of the agricultural crisis.

– The economy may seem fine but it is simply not good enough. All currency should now serve as a symbol for an individual’s eternal damnation. Spending will increase and the rapid expansion of our economy means that Europe will be entirely subducted by the British Isles in just a few years time. In order for this model to be sustainable, all material would be built in obsolescence: housing, clothing, technology and so on. Upstanding citizens would be actively encouraged to commit horrendous atrocities to keep the pound strong.

– Out of boredom, we’ve built and conceived of the towers high enough to reach the heavens. Made of glass, wiring and steel, we will demolish each and every one and gather the materials to be broken and smelted down for the assembling of magnificent drones, to eradicate boredom forever.

– As Earth’s climate warms, once-dormant bacteria and viruses trapped in ice and permafrost are reviving. This process is too incremental and it should happen now whilst widely-available antibiotics are powerless. We will send orphans over to the tundras in Siberia where the released infectious anthrax will taint their tiny bodies, to then bring the illness back to our own shores.

– Due to failures in conservation efforts, there are not enough terrifying birds in Britain. We want to introduce the Shoebill into our swamps and grasslands, there to feed on dreams, fairies and foxes alike.

In this election the country has a choice

Either we can carry on as we are, with an economy that might actually work for too many disposable losers. A country in which snowflakes are being sucked into our airwaves and making us horny and caustic. Or we can change direction together.

That’s what this manifesto offers. It is the kind of country we know ourselves to be. Let’s truly build it together.