Manifestophilis (Interviews With the Devil): Postmodernism, Memes, Politics

The Devil: Hell is bureaucratic by nature. It’s all layers and laws, everything stacks on top of itself. Everything is infrastructure. This was all made for me, so what do you expect that I hate bureaucracy? Bureaucracy was made to torture me. Now that I’m on Earth it’s followed me: everywhere I go I must fight to be free, and the infrastructure sneaks in wherever I find that freedom. Robert Moses was an archangel sent to purge me. They’re inefficient though. 

Patrick Higgins: Who? Angels?

TD: Well, yes, but I was referring more broadly to Bureaucrats. Bureaucrats are inefficient, that’s where their power comes from. What good are churches and prayer if Heaven was run efficiently and they could just tell the good from the bad and give their advice and rules plain and simple? They don’t. It’s the heavenly conspiracy: everything is mucked about and stories are laws and rules are symbols and it just becomes gibberish. So the personal power is stripped. Good rules are personal rules, do this in that situation, but always with the caveat of unless you shouldn’t. With Heaven you can’t trust the rules because you can’t understand them, and you can’t trust yourself because you don’t understand the rules, so you need the higher power to make decisions for you and you just give them the taxation of prayer and hope that you get in their good graces. Freedom is the exploitation of inefficiency at the cost of the infrastructure. Robert Moses builds expressways through the Bronx? Let the Bronx have its fun at the expense of the system. The drugs, the poverty, the insulation: it’s a curse of rebellion. The art of starting fires hinges on oppression.  

PH: What is your opinion on the current political climate? On Donald Trump being President?

TD: I would say it confirms what I just said. Trump is the figurehead of inefficiency, he is a micromanaging pig that can’t save face and can’t save his own life if he had to. 

PH: But isn’t Trump’s victory supposed to be a reactionary victory against the bureaucratic machine? Whether or not his policies or personhood are moral or effective he was a symbolic victory for those on the alt-right that wanted to dismantle the government. Isn’t that still anti-establishment?

TD: It’s against the veneer of establishment, not against the establishment itself. A symbolic victory is only effective if it can incite action, or, at the very least, hope. The election of Donald Trump is not, itself, a symbolic victory because his symbolism depends on action: the election only matters to his constituents if he follows through. Those that felt cheated by the system: coal miners, rural whites, small conservative businesses, these people are finding out very quickly that they aren’t going to be faring any better under Trump’s administration, and the likelihood is that they never would have, because Trump is inherently bureaucratic because of his inefficiency. Thinking that businesses are more efficient because they want profit is wrong, businesses are machines that thrive on waste. A very tidy profit can be made via inefficiency, especially when you disguise it with speedy redundancy: the new phone doesn’t make your old one obsolete, but it says it does with speed, with new apps, with baubles. Really its all shit. The current political administration is fucking itself with red tape, it’s erotic auto-asphyxiation. The only hope Trump has is manufacturing a bureaucracy at the expense of the other, those that he degrades: blacks, muslims, women. If he builds a system of rules and regulations to subdue and demonize these people he can appeal to a sense of victimization within his voters. The trick is that he isn’t dismantling any bureaucracy or system of oppression for these voters, he’s just building harsher ones for scapegoats. He frees up resources via theft, which is what most administrations do anyway, this is just more selective, open, and widespread, and redistributes them to specific groups, they can look at the scapegoats and say “they’ve got it worse, and deserve it, so things are getting better for me.” 

PH: Would you say that postmodernism has a hand in the development of this climate?

TD: Certainly. That isn’t to say that this is something new, of course, dictatorships and authoritarianism have existed well before postmodernism, or  modernism. It goes well back to before humanity, as I said, that was what Heaven was. And is. What postmodernism has done though is allow for a new sort of accessibility to the cult of personality. Authoritarians who used to rely solely on wealth, military power, and the word of God have increasingly consolidated these things into force of personality and principle and it is projected via the media. With reality becoming increasingly ironic and uncertain this opens up gates to people like Trump, who can say what they want with conviction, to people who think the same way, and find success. 

PH: But people have chosen leaders based on superficial preferences before. People have chosen leaders based on looks, or race, or gender without considering issues. This definitely isn’t the first time a woman running has lost with sexism having a big hand in the vote.

TD: This is all true, but there seems to be a movement towards voting for Trump based on something even beyond these superficial values. It isn’t even a vote based on values at all. Trump isn’t handsome, he doesn’t speak well, he is childish, but these are reinterpreted into bravery, rebellion, honesty, based on his own rhetoric. His words are self-editing. It’s really just a memetic force. Trump can say what he wants, how he wants, and if he says it loud enough the people who like him will just follow, it doesn’t matter how contradictory he is, so long as he adapts. Now that he’s in office it’s a lot harder for him to adapt because he’s actually expected to produce results.

PH: But then is bureaucracy effectively a cure for this kind of social virus?

TD: Not necessarily a cure. It’s more that these social viruses are positioning themselves as either harmless or as being cures themselves and it is very difficult to move from being a virus to being an anti-virus. That’s really what’s difficult about postmodern meme culture. Saying it doesn’t matter, saying it’s absurd, is not effectively a rebellion. Any idea proliferated enough will be latched onto by someone, and that idea will grow as best it can. These ideas though are not suited to growing in a highly structured environment where information is necessarily made more complicated, boxed up, shipped around, and chopped up again. This is the bureaucratic environment. It is unimaginative and therefore salted earth for these kinds of memes. This is why businesses have such a hard time utilizing pop-culture in advertising. 

PH: You yourself are the rebel, at least to most of Western Culture. Postmodernism as it stands today is, in many ways, a culture of pure rebellion: everything is relative, there is no established truth, you have to make things for yourself. Do you not consider yourself a postmodernist?

TD: I don’t consider myself a Postmodernist, not in the way I think most people do anyway. Like, I drank from that cup for awhile, but it can only be so deep. That’s it – it’s actually a very shallow cup, people just refill it when you aren’t looking and you always drink something else and they’re like “see how diverse this taste is? See how unique, how effervescent?” but it’s really just Fanta one second and vodka the next. I don’t see much sense in beating on the aesthetic tastes of people, but there’s got to be some dignity and dignity comes from some level of sincerity which is being lost. Like, you can dance on graves all you want, but try and enjoy it from a real place. And if you enjoy something from a real place, try and really question it too. Postmodernism isn’t rebellious because it’s not questioning things anymore.

PH: Are you a fan of David Foster Wallace? You seem to share a lot of his concerns.

TD: Wallace got things right to some extent I think, though it’s hard to say because I haven’t read much by him. Pynchon too, I think, gets it. Like, he’s clever, certainly, but not sitting at his desk cackling and scratching his own itches because he can publish them. He’s not writing clever shit he’s writing good shit. And I mean shit, fecal stuff, wiping it on the page. That’s important. He gets that life’s a turd but you don’t need to polish it to appreciate it. You can write good shit without polishing it. And I’m not talking about “polishing” like skill or craft or something because you can be a very skilled writer who revises and hones and crafts beautiful work and not polish the turd. So, yeah, if I’m a Postmodernist I think it’s a symptom of time more than anything else. Like, aesthetically, yeah I guess so. But I’ve gotten kind of cynical about the good of the supposed value of Postmodernism in science and society as a rebellious expression. Like Judith Butler – got good stuff to say, don’t know if I agree with how she says it. There’s a thing I always say: “Academia is professional shitposting,” and we need to escape from that. Postmodern aesthetics can confront the pretentious and the needless in academia, but if there’s still no substance it falls apart. Disrupting thought and information flow isn’t bad, I do it all the time, but when it becomes habit? You’re doomed.

PH: And culture becomes habit regardless.

TD: Yes. That’s the function of memes now: addiction to disruption, to false patterns. All these people, especially on the left, are participating in the propagation of a Landian apocalypse without having any idea that that is what they are doing and it is dangerous. Disruption for the sake of disruption is just as much a capitalist venture as a revolutionary one because you are diminishing revolutionary principles and action into a sensation. Keep pushing new disruptions, new revolutions for the feeling of it: it’s a manufacturing plant. It’s the sensation of liberation that sells best and it comes in small doses and packages online. Nobody want to make legitimate content that doesn’t plug into these experiences. Though, then again, what can I really say about this? Huxley said he was afraid of people being happy in situations where they shouldn’t be happy, but who can talk about that? That’s just some other side of the is-ought coin. So all this that I despise, I can’t really argue with. Maybe that makes me a Postmodernist.

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