Fellows, Friends, and Others,
I am sending another one of my reports from the field. As stipulated, I am using the species’ own mode of transmission, their own semiology—what is referred to in these parts as “language” (though, technically speaking, they use many “languages” organized in a similar way as a system (i.e. as “language”), many “dialects” within any single language, within that many idiosyncrasies (according to the specific setting, function, and role of the enunciator), many different ways in which they are performed . . .) (As with my other reports, all throughout I have tried to use the hegemonic language.). Although this is a less secure way to proceed, I have come to concur with the assertion (which, I assume, is the underlying reason for guideline # 9) that only through the subject/object’s own native transmission can its distinctiveness and uniqueness (in some cases, its novelty) be elaborated as precisely as possible (which is not to say fully).
This, I believe, has nothing to do with the structural semiotical claim of the direct correspondence between transmission, thought, and thing. (In fact, as with our own, that is impossible). It has also nothing to do with some kind of essence expressible only in its particular domain (i.e. with a culture able to be captured only through its own mode of representation). (That would assume transmissional/semiological essences—the deconstruction of which, as we all remember, served as one of the major foundations of our culture.) (My line of thinking about this perhaps intimates that even as I’ve been implanted here for 26 years now, i.e. from my inception, I have not forgotten our ways—or fully adopted theirs.) It is just that to truly understand a subject/object—in this case, this species, this culture—one truly has to be in it—to be it: that is to say, to live as the beings in it do, to think in their modes, in their manner, to have their desires (with their objects, their force, their stirrings and frustrations), to act in their few set ways (including the exceptions), to inhabit their bodies (with its capabilities and limitations)—i.e. to exist as they do, to be totally immersed in them—that is to say, to be as they be: be the being that they are. Which, it must not be forgotten, at its core includes communicating, representing, mediating, and expressing (speaking, writing, listening, reading, gesturing, moving, touching, sensing) as they do: i.e. (for the most part) in language. Thus, even as—by maintaining a gap, a split, that gives me some room, a certain distance (which allows me to look from the outside)—I do not fully adopt their being, somehow I truly am in that being, embedded among them. I am not them (I maintain that distinction), but, in being where/when/how/what . . . they are, I be as they be.
Please kindly send the records that I’ve requested for my own viewing/listening/reading pleasure. If I were to die a terrible death, it would be the consumption of what they call “culture” in this place. Greetings to everymany back there, and may chaos, as always, chance upon an Other!
Report # 10.1: The Rational Complexity of Human Aggression
There is much to be admired in this species that calls itself Homo sapiens: man, human, the human being, in less technical terms. They have achieved so much in making things doable/done (in fact, the culture that has occupied the dominant position for the past century or so is premised on making things “easy”) that it is hard not to stand in awe of their accomplishments: the conversion of nature into something of use to the species, the species’ self-perpetuation through sexual reproduction, its subdivision and organization into separate manageable and defended communities (what is referred to as the “State”) (at times cooperating), the transport of “economic” “goods” and their distribution, the overcoming of distance (i.e. the conquest of space), the retention of things lost (mostly through writing) (i.e. the conquest of time), even the cultivation of the intellect, the arts, and culture (sometimes for their own sake) . . . “Civilization,” they call it.
This species of concern likes to distinguish itself from everything else that occupies the space that it inhabits (i.e. the “earth”). To it—the dominant being that it knows, the hegemon, the “crowned glory” of what it calls the “world”—this is a justified practice. The other earthly species that approximates it the most—animals, beasts—are denigrated by the very practice that claims to show caring and affection for them: the process called “domestication” in which animals are displaced from their “natural” habitats into human homes or public locations where they are (usually) to serve as spectacle (for all the ways in which they are like humans, just less so)—making them human (but inferior) in either case.
Human distinction, this human sense of superiority, is not based solely on the negative observation (by the human) of other creatures (in this case, animals) when it has filtered them through its own categories, when, in other words, it has seen what is other through its own human lens, reduced all the ways in which the other is different—through the use of tropes, especially metaphor and analogy; in general by the mere instance of representation—to something similar, familiar to—seeming of—just like humans (anthropomorphism, in a word). The human species, superior that it is, also claims to be able to make a positive argument for its superiority.
I am a much more complex being, the human says. I am more fully “evolved” (a word that in all of its implications for humans differs so strikingly from its equivalent in ours that the two words, as equivalent translations, are almost completely unrecognizable). Not just in the way I think that enables me (more than any animal, the human adds proudly) to carry out the activities that render my survival and sustenance practicable—but with the other things that I use thinking for—which, the human is not embarrassed to avow, lead to the truly great triumphs (and the hallmarks of strength) of “civilization” that is my own: the development of language, its teaching and learning, the creation of lasting relationships (with other humans), the erection of institutions (that ensure the stability of relations), the use of concepts grounded in “reason,” the retention of memory through the (usually written) record, the study of all these and their further development, further “technology,” further innovation, their spilling over into culture, art, the “humanities,” onto ever further unimagined complexities that my inherently complex constitution—my complex brain—is capable of . . .
All other creatures that “mother” “nature” has spawned, the human continues, I love—like a guardian loves a child. But (the human is sure to add) they simply cannot do what I do. I am set apart, he asserts. I possess layers and layers of complexity above and beyond all other creatures on earth. Simply put, I have the best brain. Thus my place on top of the hierarchy. Thus my unique position in the world. As its epitome, its crowning accomplishment, the model to be imitated and revered, the key to its mysteries—I—man—am king of the world.
There is a sense in which this human claim is true. Although I continue to be unsure whether “complexity” is the right term for it (perhaps humans don’t have a word for what I mean), humans do seem to create, experience, intimate—do/make—things in excess of and beyond (which is not to say above) animal activity. While the animal seems to act mostly by and is almost totally preoccupied with instinct, something else—perhaps many things (including instinct)—motivates and preoccupies the human. The intermingling, confusing, and meshing of all these things—attempted, according to some human schools of thought, to be mediated by language—is perhaps the warrant for the claim of human “complexity.” Which is often followed by the claim that this complexity (at least ideally) is presided over by “rationality,” the faculty that the human claims is uniquely its own: “human reason.”
If true, this claim is to be proven by and manifested in most, if not all, human activities, i.e. in the things that humans do. And, indeed, there is one such activity that serves as a strong and solid proof for it. If the animal exhibits aggression (by which is meant hostility and offense against another, which usually amounts to violence) purely out of instinct, the human does it in a rationally complex way. The animal commits acts of aggression for the sole purpose of surviving, usually in search of food to eat (thus its targets are limited to its appetite). There are, of course, other motivations, e.g. the discharge of libido, defense of oneself when disturbed in one’s habitat, etc.—but these things too are part of animal survival, or are at least related to the instinct (related to what the human terms “need”).
The human also does these things—and more: i.e. in more areas of life (since its self-claimed complexity has entitled it to more “needs,” a widened category), for many other reasons/motivations/drives (other than base instinct)—leading, quantitatively (in addition to qualitatively) speaking, to more aggression. In other words, not just aggression against animals (and plants) for food, but aggression against animals (and plants) for aesthetic (e.g. clothes), sporting (e.g. hunting), cultural (e.g. movies), intellectual (e.g. medical experiments), etc. purposes. Not just aggression against animals (and plants) for food, but aggression against humans (in the form of the exploitation of “labor” (sometimes in a very immediate sense, as when the boss says, “I don’t care if you’re sick. Get back to work!”)) for food. Not just aggression against humans for food, but aggression against humans as a simple—brute—part (taken as a given, a “fact”) of how the “economy” works as it provides all sorts of “goods” that humans (some more than others) supposedly “need”: in other words, aggression against humans for (seeing as everything has become a “need”) everything. Aggression against all (plants, animals, humans . . .) in everything (i.e. in all aspects of life) for everything (i.e. for whatever is deemed to be a “need”). “Impersonal” and seemingly unaffected (indifferent, negligent) aggression. Aggression (no longer knowing its victim) (very different from the animal targeting particular preys, at particular instances) directed against whomever it can be directed—seeing as the human is transformable into what is called human “labor”—which, apparently, is universally “appetizing.”
The animal will act out of instinct, when it feels the need, feels hungry—and when it catches a prey. The human, the human develops this whole system (what is called the “economy”) that plans and carries out massive aggression. It develops a whole hierarchy of “persons” (the “career ladder” the places humans to play specific roles), builds “factories” (not all “industries” have factories, but virtually all “workplaces” are analogous to how factories work, e.g. the input-output of force, the arrangement of humans in it, the regulations and goals . . .), even extends all over the world (in a phenomenon called “globalization”) just to be able to commit aggression—which allows it to bundle together all the “work” performable and therefrom collect an excess (“profit,” in “corporate” terms).
The pooling together of different types of work (from all types of people, from all over the world), the forced imposition of a certain form on it (the transformation of work into “labor”), its forced fitting into the specific input-output system that it happens to be in as part of the larger global input-output system (with an excess) (“capitalism”)—all this violence, all this aggression! (Interestingly enough, humans have a mythical creature that eerily recalls this basic mechanism: the “vampire.”) This, however, is not only carried out as it is, as though it were how things “naturally” worked. It is planned—as testified to by the great inequality of who reaps the benefits from the aggression (what, by the way, is referred to by humans as “production”), betraying a plan (or at least a system, betraying that it is systematic) of “distribution” on top of “production” (in which the largest beneficiaries are almost always the same people (resulting into the wretched and shameful misery of the vast majority)).
Humans moreover seem to have a talent—a knack—for devising ways to increase and improve the means by which they do things, including the means by which they inflict aggression, increasing it on a massive scale. Take, for example, the phenomenon called “globalization” where different States—virtually all—are able (in most cases, coerced) to participate in the world economic system modeled after the system of the dominant State (i.e. “capitalism”). This phenomenon has been made possible by “wage and price differentials” between different States. These differentials to an extent reflect the different levels of development (e.g. the extent to which “industrialization” has succeeded) and the different natural compositions (e.g. the resources indigenous to the particular State, the landscape . . .) of the different States. The major source for them, however, is the difference in working and living conditions (the standards expected/demanded thereof).
It is in this way that poorer States get to “capitalize” on the lack of worker “rights.” By having more “attractive” production conditions (low wage, long hours, cruel conditions) for goods (more easily) designated as “needs,” poorer States get to offer lower prices to the world (now wholly participant in “globalization”). As a result, most “goods” consumed—of which the wealthier States are the largest consumers—now come from the poorer States—the States that do not even bother to feign concern for their workers—where exploitation—aggression—is thus at its highest and most intense. For their part, the wealthier States—by ensuring that their own workers have a modicum of rights (protecting them (technically speaking) from abuse)—get to turn a blind eye—even excuse—aggression inflicted upon the workers of the poorer States—from where, it must be said again, most of the “goods” they consume come from. It is thus an amazing—and uniquely human—achievement that someone consuming virtually anything at all in a wealthy State gets to support, patronize, and even himself inflict abuse, injury, exploitation—aggression—on someone else oceans away—something an animal, as of yet, is incapable of. The “complexity” of humans with which they exceed other beings on earth thus do not only provide them with more domains of aggression; it also gives them more means: “complexity” as a true avenue for aggression.
Human aggression is not all “economic,” however. As already mentioned, the cause/motivation for aggression in humans is not solely “need” (the widely expanded category) and it is deployed not only in the “economic” sphere. The other aspects of life that the human claims as his own—all those other dimensions that testify to his unique “complexity”—are also shot through and through with aggression. Take, for example, what is referred to as “love,” something “beyond” instinct and even “beyond” need (that fabricated human category) that the human claims is unique to the species and which he prizes as what makes him deserving of his position in the world. It is not uncommon for a human (usually a “man”) to abuse another (say, a “woman”) he is intimate with (someone he “loves”)—whether it be by cheating on her, taking her for granted, making her serve him, work for him (as a “wife,” for example), raise his children (as a “mother”), physically beating her up . . . In fact, the abuse of another—especially those that one claims to love—is quite common among humans: aggression in all sort of ways in varying but definitively felt intensities: aggression against the emotions, aggression against the mind, aggression in exploitation (in miniature: the family), aggression in silence, verbal aggression, semiotical aggression, sexual aggression, brute physical aggression . . .
Loving human relationships—the thing supposed to set the human apart (deservingly so!)—is actually inherently suffused with aggression, is perhaps even characterized by it—in fact allows aggression and provides the ground for it as the abuser/aggressor afterwards is able to say: “I’m sorry. I’m not perfect. Forgive me?” “But I do all these other things for you! You ought to understand.” “We’re in a relationship. People expect certain things from us . . .” “Separate? That’s what you want? But what about the kids, the fruits of our love?”—and, of course: “You love me, don’t you? Deep inside, you really understand . . .”—perhaps even: “But I did that out of love (for you)”—with which—because of “love”—this human—this human being committing—is guilty of—acts and acts of aggression—is actually able to make a case, i.e. is able to rationally—with reason—convince the other to accept the aggression inflicted on her! If we grant it its claim, the human has indeed developed layers and layers of complexity in excess of and beyond all other beings, including the one that resembles it the most (animals)—and in all those layers, the human has only discovered further (complex) dimensions and further (rational) warrants for aggression.
Yet perhaps nothing epitomizes more the rational complexity of aggression in humans as the weapons that they’ve built specifically for it (not to mention the whole complex of “corporations” and “institutions” surrounding—“profiting” from—them). This is exemplified by what is perhaps the most awe-inspiring of them all—in fact, of all human inventions in general (as of yet): the atom bomb. The atom bomb had the concentration camp as its precursor, yet even the concentration camp is an “animal” compared to the “human” that is the atom bomb. Similar to the concentration camp in involving planning and organization, the atom bomb was nonetheless an intentional product of the “highest” of all “intellectual” endeavors (science)—the “highest” (sub)field at that (physics)—that, moreover, proved to be (in being restricted to and carried out entirely in it) its pure and perfect (capturing and “realizing” all of its power (all that it can do)) instantiation, evading the shortcomings of the concentration camp (as with its reliance on individual human soldiers’ judgment). Akin to the concentration camp in targeting specific sections of the population, the atom bomb nonetheless had much more massive effects and as such is both precise and imprecise—i.e. precise only up to a certain point: the level of the molar, i.e. with targets that are large. If the concentration camp could perform massively with elements it has examined individually (“Are you a Jew?), the atom bomb treats a whole mass as an individual that is its enemy (“Where is Japan?”). The atom bomb is thus both “personal” (i.e. targeted against specific “persons”) and “impersonal” (the “persons” are targeted inasmuch as they are part of (or happen to be in) a mass).
Virtually all human weapons encounter a moment of choice, the moment when a decision becomes required to be made (whether the weapon is to be used or not). With the atom bomb (as perhaps another indication of how “purely” “scientific” it is), this moment becomes so detached from the reality of what is being decided on that it is but a hollow choice, as though—removed from its actual deployment, its targets, its consequences, the reality of its effects—it was no choice at all. The utterance of a word, perhaps a deep breath, and the pressing of a button (thousands of miles away!) are all that are required of the user of the weapon. With that, the act is done—and a massive act of atrocity—unimaginable aggression—is inflicted on the world.
With the atom bomb, the rational complexity of humans has reached so high a point, has so fulfilled itself, so perfected itself—become so complex—that it actually no longer needs rationality for its complex effects to be deployed and rationality to be demonstrated. “Do it!” It explodes. (What happens where it explodes, who cares? We won! The threat is gone and (our way of) life is preserved.) That is all.—Such massive, intense, “world”-changing—“complex”—act of aggression decided upon with detached rationality (“They’re the enemy, sir”) and rationalized afterwards. What an awesome human achievement! Rationality detached from rationality. Aggression—the same bare instinct—consummated at its most complex.