Wednesday, January 4, 2023

second notes on reading, 2022

Having established some grounding in Marxism - i.e., for the first time, in reality - I began over the past few years what I've been thinking of as a long-term project of research into what you might call "bad ideas of the 20th century", to learn what they have in common and toward what aims they point. This led me to a 19th century precursor, Helena Blavatsky, whose immensely tedious and immensely fascist Secret Doctrine I finally dispensed with in 2022. I've mentioned her recently. It was touching to learn that she, very generously if I don't say so myself, characterizes Semites as a branch of the noble Aryan family - albeit, of course, a considerably degenerate one.

Timothy Leary, Jung (on whom perhaps a bit more later) - Blavatskies of the 20th century, more or less, as in their different ways are the "information" theorists (again, perhaps more later) as well as the (as they say) literal Nazis I read last year, Carl Schmitt, Dietrich Eckart, Hitler himself. Not to attribute any great originary role to Madame B. (whose own work appears to be largely plagiarized and about whom it's an open question how much the Nazis cared); I'm not searching for some Secret Idea that drove it all. But the tremendous value of actually reading these people is that it enables you to recognize it when you see it again - and again - and again - same old, same old. If you have read Mein Kampf, if you have read the almost impressively audaciously insane Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin or, as I had in 2021, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and if you have understood how they do what they do, their new versions - most importantly those in "left" garb - have no hope of working on you. Of course Marx helps a great deal.

One finding of this research project that perhaps won't (couldn't) amuse and interest anyone else as much as it did me had to do with the bad idea of the 20th century that is dearest and most repugnant to my heart. In an email I sent to Richard one year and one day ago today, after briefly parodying Hitler's style, I added:

(I said "inwardly infinitely" because those are two of his favorite modifiers, infinite and inward - they'll often appear multiple times per page, sometimes multiple times per sentence, frequently in ways that don't seem to make any sense - which, that and other things stylistically remind me of, um, Golden Age scifi in general and most very specifically A.E. van Vogt - unlikely to have been direct stylistic influence since it was only translated into English in 1943, when the Golden Age was about to have run its course already; on the other hand so many scifi writers then were engineers, and engineers then could all read German; but seems most likely due to shared mindset and maybe shared type of influences - I wonder how similar the styles of German and American turn-of-the-20th popular literature were.)
And I did read scifi in 2022. The Second Experiment by J.O. Jeppson (who is better known by the name she openly wrote under later, Janet Asimov) was everything I want in a certain type of scifi - "dumb, psychotic, and kind of great, and all three much more so than I was expecting", as I blurbed it to Richard in an email in March. Unexpectedly it featured Margulisian speciation via symbiosis as a plot point, as does, in sickeningly distorted form, Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series - in which we are told, as indisputable fact, that human beings are intrinsically evil due to genetic original sin and must have the genes for Goodness raped into us by aliens if we are to avoid destroying ourselves. The more one reads of Butler the more one wonders where her much-ballyhooed lefty cred comes from (answer: marketing; racist overcompensation). As usual what she does with her fundamentally fascist concept is interesting and ambivalent, but no amount of fascinating development can undo the vileness at its heart: the series is a long, thoughtful, even occasionally moving answer to the idiotic and breathtakingly repellent question, "What if fascists were right about Human Nature, but it really could be fixed by eugenics?" (Which, to be sure, has a certain internal logic: after all, if fascists were right about human nature, eugenics would be the way to fix it.) Remarkably, too, the form this asserted inescapable evil of humanity takes is: "hierarchy" - never defined, this word, and one wishes to be able to sit down with Butler's ghost and ask it what she thought the word meant, because nearly everything we're given as telling examples of this nefarious inevitable human tendency toward hierarchy is precisely resistance to the imposition of hierarchy - which, back to the question of Butler's lefty cred, certainly explains why she's so beloved today of astroturfed social media influencers pretending to be radicals who routinely slander all genuine revolutionary black liberation movements and heroes, past and present, in precisely the same terms.

Bradbury (the execrable Fahrenheit 451) and Asimov (some of the later novels and much nonfiction) I read with a specific aim in mind, though in the case of Asimov there is also some pleasure in the reading. I will not talk about either of them now, for fear of never stopping; all I'll say about 451 for the moment is that may be the first-ever pro-nuclear-holocaust novel, a remarkable achievement for 1953 (or 1951, when the even more overtly nuke-em-all-cleansing-fire novella "The Fireman", later revised and expanded into the novel, appeared in Galaxy). Hopefully I will say what I have to say about them another time. Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! is of course very famous as part of scifi's long ignoble history of propagandizing the alleged "overpopulation problem"; Delany's Nova I like.

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