From Hakim Bey
AGAINST THE REPRODUCTION OF DEATH
ONE OF THE SIGNS of that End Time so many seem to anticipate would consist of a fascination with all the most negative & hateful detritus of that Time, a fascination felt by the very class of thinkers who consider themselves most perspicacious about the so-called apocalypse they warn us to beware. I'm speaking of people I know very well--those of the "spiritual right" (such as the neo-Guenonians with their obsession for signs of decadence)--& those of the post- philosophical left, the detached essayists of death, connoisseurs of the arts of mutilation.
For both these sets, all possible action in the world is smeared out onto one level plain--all become equally meaningless. For the Traditionalist, nothing matters but to prepare the soul for death (not only its own but the whole world's as well). For the "cultural critic" nothing matters but the game of identifying yet one more reason for despair, analyzing it, adding it to the catalogue.
Now the End of the World is an abstraction because it has never happened. It has no existence in the real world. It will cease to be an abstraction only when it happens--if it happens. (I do not claim to know "God's mind" on the subject- -nor to possess any scientific knowledge about a still non- existent future). I see only a mental image & its emotional ramifications; as such I identify it as a kind of ghostly virus, a spook-sickness in myself which ought to be expunged rather than hypochondriacally coddled & indulged. I have come to despise the "End of the World" as an ideological icon held over my head by religion, state, & cultural milieu alike, as a reason for doing nothing.
I understand why the religious & political "powers" would want to keep me quaking in my shoes. Since only they offer even a chance of evading ragnarok (thru prayer, thru democracy, thru communism, etc.), I will sheepishly follow their dictates & dare nothing on my own. The case of the enlightened intellectuals, however, seems more puzzling at first. What power do they derive from this telling-the- beads of fear & gloom, sadism & hatred?
Essentially they gain smartness. Any attack on them must appear stupid, since they alone are clear-eyed enough to recognize the truth, they alone daring enough to show it forth in defiance of rude shit-kicking censors & liberal wimps. If I attack them as part of the very problem they claim to be discussing objectively, I will be seen as a bumpkin, a prude, a pollyanna. If I admit my hatred for the artifacts of their perception (books, artworks, performances) then I may be dismissed as merely squeamish (& so of course psychologically repressed), or else at the very least lacking in seriousness.
Many people assume that because I sometimes express myself as an anarchist boy-lover, I must also be "interested" in other ultra-postmodern ideas like serial child-murder, fascist ideology, or the photographs of Joel P. Witkin. They assume only two sides to any issue--the hip side & the unhip side. A marxist who objected to all this death-cultishness as anti-progressive would be thought as foolish as a Xtian fundamentalist who believed it immoral.
I maintain that (as usual) many sides exist to this issue rather than only two. Two-sided issues (creationism vs darwinism, "choice" vs "pro-life," etc.) are all without exception delusions, spectacular lies.
My position is this: I am all too well aware of the "intelligence" which prevents action. I myself possess it in abundance. Every once in a while however I have managed to behave as if I were stupid enough to try to change my life. Sometimes I've used dangerous stupifiants like religion, marijuana, chaos, the love of boys. On a few occasions I have attained some degree of success--& I say this not to boast but rather to bear witness. By overthrowing the inner icons of the End of the World & the Futility of all mundane endeavor, I have (rarely) broken through into a state which (by comparison with all I'd known) appeared to be one of health. The images of death & mutilation which fascinate our artists & intellectuals appear to me--in the remembered light of these experiences--tragically inappropriate to the real potential of existence & of discourse about existence.
Existence itself may be considered an abyss possessed of no meaning. I do not read this as a pessimistic statement. If it be true, then I can see in it nothing else but a declaration of autonomy for my imagination & will--& for the most beautiful act they can conceive with which to bestow meaning upon existence.
Why should I emblemize this freedom with an act such as murder (as did the existentialists) or with any of the ghoulish tastes of the eighties? Death can only kill me once- -till then I am free to express & experience (as much as I can) a life & an art of life based on self-valuating "peak experiences," as well as "conviviality" (which also possesses its own reward).
The obsessive replication of Death-imagery (& its reproduction or even commodification) gets in the way of this project just as obstructively as censorship or media- brainwashing. It sets up negative feedback loops--it is bad juju. It helps no one conquer fear of death, but merely inculcates a morbid fear in place of the healthy fear all sentient creatures feel at the smell of their own mortality.
This is not to absolve the world of its ugliness, or to deny that truly fearful things exist in it. But some of these things can be overcome--on the condition that we build an aesthetic on the overcoming rather than the fear.
I recently attended a gay dance/poetry performance of uncompromising hipness: the one black dancer in the troupe had to pretend to fuck a dead sheep.
Part of my self-induced stupidity, I confess, is to believe (& even feel) that art can change me, & change others. That's why I write pornography & propaganda--to cause change. Art can never mean as much as a love affair, perhaps, or an insurrection. But...to a certain extent...it works.
Even if I'd given up all hope in art, however, all expectation of exaltation, I would still refuse to put up with art that merely exacerbates my misery, or indulges in schadenfreude, "delight in the misery of others." I turn away from certain art as a dog would turn away howling from the corpse of its companion. I'd like to renounce the sophistication which would permit me to sniff it with detached curiosity as yet another example of post-industrial decomposition.
Only the dead are truly smart, truly cool. Nothing touches them. While I live, however, I side with bumbling suffering crooked life, with anger rather than boredom, with sweet lust, hunger & carelessness...against the icy avant-guard & its fashionable premonitions of the sepulcher.