Posts Tagged ‘apocalipsa’

Peter Thiel, a PayPal founder and tech luminary, upset a lot of people by endorsing Donald Trump. (Wasn’t Silicon Valley supposed to be liberal?) He has also upset people by crushing Gawker Media, attacking the college system, criticizing multiculturalism, and more.

Thiel usually explains his actions in libertarian or pragmatic terms. He does stuff to promote individual freedom. He does stuff because it’s logical.

If you look at his wonkier writings, however, it’s clear Thiel also recognizes a larger historical mission. In short, he’s trying to save the world from apocalypse.

„We are in a deadly race between politics and technology,” Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay on Cato Unbound. „The future will be much better or much worse, but the question of the future remains very open indeed. … The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.”

Thiel’s philosophy, though complex, is coherent and provocative. It’s also arguably liberal — at least in the classical sense of valuing individual freedom.

In this article, we’ll try to break it down and show how it relates to various actions. Thiel declined to be interviewed, so we’ll focus on his past comments.

„The limitless violence of runaway mimesis or the peace of the kingdom of God”

To understand Thiel’s outlook, you have to look at mimetic theory, an idea developed by René Girard, whom Thiel studied with at Stanford and in whose name he sponsors an institute.

„I’ve noticed that it takes a long time to really sink in,” Thiel said in 2014 about Girard’s theories. „You can understand what his words mean as philosophical concepts without understanding how those concepts play out in life.”

Like Girard, Thiel believes that …

… mankind’s extraordinary capacity for mimesis, aka imitation, leads to envy.

Human see, human want.

In ancient cultures, this often resulted in chaos.

„The fundamental problem in these cultures was that there were all sorts of conflicts everywhere,” Thiel said in a 2012 class, according to notes by his former student Blake Masters, which we’ll treat as verbatim.

… society controls tensions through scapegoating.

„Where warring civilizations didn’t just collapse entirely, the most common resolution involved polarizing and channeling all the hostility into one particular person,” Thiel told his class.

Early examples of scapegoats might include Oedipus and Julius Caesar. Recent examples might include Bill Gates, Kanye West, and Donald Trump.

By literally or figuratively sacrificing these figures, people are able to find a cathartic release for anger, envy, and other destructive urges.

… modern thought aims to uncover the truth about society.

The fact that society is built on violence and justified by lies. The fact that we have these violent urges in us.

Girard and Thiel hold the New Testament as a seminal text, with its defense of innocent victims through history and its focus on Christ, the most innocent scapegoat of all.

„For Girard, the knowledge of the founding murder is driven by the historical working of the Judeo-Western revelation,” Thiel wrote in 2004. „The revelation may be slow (because it contains a message that humans do not wish to hear), but it is not reversible.”

Thiel also describes modern thought in terms that might be called liberal or libertarian. As he wrote in 1996, „The breakthrough involved a single revolutionary idea: that individuals exist and have rights, and that these rights are independent of the cultures these individuals happen to inhabit.”

The spread of modern thought might lead to paradise, but …

… modern thought is dangerous.

By exposing the lies that hold up society — e.g., that we are good and others are evil — modern thought makes it harder to justify ongoing exploitation.

What’s more, modernity has introduced ever larger societies, opening the possibility for ever larger mimetic rivalries. Today, for instance, people around the world might be aware of and jealous of how people in the West live.

„For Girard, this combination of mimesis and the unraveling of archaic culture implies that the modern world contains a powerfully apocalyptic dimension,” Thiel wrote in 2004.

Where Thiel goes beyond Girard is in ideas about influencing the future.

Thiel laid out his own worldview at a 2004 philosophical conference, which he sponsored, on „Politics and Apocalypse.” As noted by the scholar Geoff Shullenberger, „Thiel’s contribution to the conference, seeks common ground between Girard’s mimetic theory of human social life … and the work of two right-wing, anti-democratic political philosophers who were in vogue in the years following 9/11: Leo Strauss … and Carl Schmitt.”

In a world of nuclear weapons, facing the scale of terrorism seen on 9/11 or worse, true liberal thinkers must act forcefully to spread their values and stave off existential risks, Thiel argued.

On the philosophical front, that meant reengaging with important questions about human nature — e.g., what are good and evil and why is society the way it is.

„Today, mere self-preservation forces all of us to look at the world anew, to think strange new thoughts, and thereby to awaken from that very long and profitable period of intellectual slumber and amnesia that is so misleadingly called the Enlightenment,” Thiel wrote.

On the political front, that meant taking occasionally secret or undemocratic actions.

„Instead of the United Nations, filled with interminable and inconclusive parliamentary debates that resemble Shakespearean tales told by idiots, we should consider Echelon, the secret coordination of the world’s intelligence services, as the decisive path to a truly global pax America,” Thiel wrote.

„The postmodern world,” Thiel wrote, „could differ from the modern world in a way that is much worse or much better — the limitless violence of runaway mimesis or the peace of the kingdom of God.”

How to save the world

Thiel’s apocalyptic mission — which might be described as spreading individual freedom while preventing cataclysmic mimetic violence — appears to be a factor in many of his actions.

His attack on multiculturalism — such as in his 1995 book, „The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus” — was a warning against a new form of scapegoating.

„Rather than breaking the cycle of human history, multiculturalism merely represents another link in the long chain of victimization and revenge,” Thiel wrote.

What’s more, Thiel argued, debates about female culture, black culture, and a thousand other cultures were distracting from more important questions about human culture.

Founding PayPal, which launched in 1999, may have been a way to spread individual freedom and keep dangerous political forces in check. Thiel said in an early speech (recounted by Eric Jackson): „PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before. It will be nearly impossible for corrupt governments to steal wealth from their people through their old means, because if they try, the people will switch to dollars or pounds or yen, in effect dumping the worthless local currency for something more secure.”

PayPal, notably, didn’t work quite as intended. September 11 „proved fatal to PayPal’s libertarian ambition — electronic currency systems suddenly seemed like ideal ways for terrorists to hide money,” George Packer wrote. (The company sold to eBay in 2002.)

Founding Palantir, a big data analysis company specializing in security, in 2004, might have been Thiel’s way of supporting forceful but necessary political actions. Remember Thiel’s line about the global spy network Echelon being „the decisive path to a truly global pax America”? It is clearly echoed in Palantir Defense’s mission to fuse „data and analysis across geographically dispersed users, providing commanders with the latest intelligence no matter where they are.”

Investing in Facebook, back in 2004, could be read as a way to spread individual freedom. As Thiel wrote years later, „companies like Facebook create the space for new modes of dissent and new ways to form communities not bounded by historical nation-states.” Additionally, perhaps Facebook was „a mechanism for the containment and channeling of mimetic violence in the face of an ineffectual state,” Shullenberger wrote — let people fight on social media, and they won’t fight in real life.

Thiel did at least recognize the potential of Facebook through mimetic theory.

„Facebook first spread by word of mouth, and it’s about word of mouth, so it’s doubly mimetic,” he told The New York Times. „Social media proved to be more important than it looked, because it’s about our natures.”

Thiel’s other activities in the past decade might be summed up as trying to spread liberal innovation and disrupt stagnation.

Thiel promoted innovations like artificial intelligence, life extension, and seasteading — the creation of new societies in international waters. In his 2014 book, „Zero to One,” Thiel championed the idea of true innovation (going from 0 to 1) as opposed to copying (going from 1 to n). No wonder he was popular in Silicon Valley.

Thiel tried to disrupt what he saw as an overpriced and not-truly-intellectual university system, which he challenged with $100,000 Thiel Fellowships that required recipients to drop out of college, and what he saw as an overpriced and incompetent government, which he challenged by supporting libertarian and conservative groups and candidates.

Which just about brings us to the present.

In May 2016, Thiel admitted to funding Hulk Hogan’s privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media, which eventually bankrupted the publication. This action upset many liberals because it appeared to be an attack on the freedom of the press — after all, Gawker had antagonized Thiel in 2007 by outing him as gay, and now the powerful man appeared to be getting revenge.

Thiel publicly defended himself by saying he was defending broader issues of online privacy.

„The press is too important to let its role be undermined by those who would search for clicks at the cost of the profession’s reputation,” he wrote in The Times. Thiel pointed to his support of the Committee to Protect Journalists as evidence of good faith.

Perhaps privately, Thiel worried that Gawker was stirring up tensions and slowing global progress with its gleeful embrace of scapegoating. Shullenberger observed the same in a recent essay.

„It seems reasonable to conclude that Thiel’s animus against Gawker, which he has repeatedly accused of ‘bullying’ him and other Silicon Valley power players, is closely connected to his core concern with scapegoating, derived from his longstanding engagement with Girard’s ideas,” Shullenberger wrote. Perhaps Thiel also feared that Gawker was undermining the kind of journalism that spread truth.

As for his thoughts on sexual privacy, Thiel’s stance appears to follow his criticism of multiculturalism. He doesn’t want to identify as a gay man; he’d rather identify as a human.

In June 2016, Thiel took his most provocative action yet. Appearing at the Republican National Convention, he endorsed Donald Trump for president.

„I’m not a politician. But neither is Donald Trump,” Thiel told the audience. „He is a builder, and it’s time to rebuild America.”

Thiel’s support for Trump surprised many people who may have assumed that any smart person out of Silicon Valley must be a liberal, but it made sense in a lot of ways.

On the surface, Thiel might have liked a candidate who was a founder, who mocked political correctness, who pledged to reduce the size of government, and who, in general, seemed likely to disrupt politics as usual.

Although Thiel was once skeptical about politics — he wrote in 2004 that „no new Alexander is in sight to cut the Gordian knot of our age” — perhaps he saw Trump as the rare leader who might accomplish something.

On a deeper level, perhaps Trump fit into Thiel’s grand historical plans. Here was a man who would disrupt the runaway mimesis caused by globalization, which encouraged people around the world to compare their lives to everyone else’s. Here was a man who was already channeling mimetic tensions through scapegoating — conservatives were venting about Mexicans, the Chinese, and Hillary Clinton, while liberals were venting about Trump himself. By serving these functions, the provocative candidate might paradoxically defuse or distract from global tensions.

Perhaps, as suggested by Shullenberger and others, Trump is destined to become a scapegoat for the ages, a kinglike figure who is in one way or another sacrificed to create a new world order.

„Trump even viscerally looks the part of the old scapegoat kings who would be ceremonially paraded before being sacrificed,” the anthropologist David Gornoski wrote.

Has Thiel really done these things to ensure the spread of individual freedom, in pursuit of global peace? Whatever exactly he is doing, don’t expect him to talk openly about it.

Thiel subscribes to „the Straussian idea that it’s important for the intellectual elite and the ruling class to have secrets,” Shullenberger wrote in an email. As scary as that sounds, one might take faith in the idea that Thiel believes in a final reckoning.

„The Christian statesman or stateswoman must diverge from the teachings of Strauss in one decisive respect,” Thiel wrote in 2004. „One must never forget that one day all will be revealed, that all injustices will be exposed, and that those who perpetrated them will be held to account.”

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Viitorul apropiat apartine corporatiilor. Un proces lent, care a inceput acum 4-5 ani. Sunt singurii care pot intocmi planuri credibile, dovedesc o oarecare bonitate, singurii care au stomac sa digere, singurii care se pot regenera. Chiar si creste, din pacate din celule diforme, mutante (canceroase) alimentate de neglijenta, indolentza, lacomia, incultura societatii.

Micul Intreprinzator va iesi foarte jumulit din anii astia. Pe masura ce trece timpul se va decapitaliza masiv (daca nu s-a intamplat deja) consecinta a reducerii consumului in mai toate domeniile. Multi depind de firme mari, de fapt asa si-au si construit afacerea, pe comfortul si lenea acestora. Odata ce un client mare incepe restrucrurarea costurilor tu ca prestator mic nu esti nimic altceva decat un efect colateral.

Desi bancile vor vrea sa crediteze, numarul celor eligibili se va reduce drastic. Nici macar nu vom asista la un proces de polarizare a afacerilor, caci cel de polarizare a capitalului este inevitabil, unele afaceri pur si simplu vor disparea si nu va fi pus in locul lor nimic.

Somajul va creste, Statul se va incorda sa suplineasca lipsa de investitii de pe piata, va deveni si mai agresiv si dur cu cei mici, doar pe motiv ca nu a fost atent (nici macar dur) cu cei mari.

Micile intreprinderi prin reprezentantii lor vor ceda nervos din disperare si isi vor ruina pana si putinele contracte de care mai dispun, pe motiv de intarzieri la plata. Firmele mari vor substitui serviciile acestora prin departamente interne, ineficiente, dedicate sa suplineasca nevoia prestatiilor outsource-izate anterior. Vom fi martorii unei economii de subzistenta, un exod masiv al putinelor creiere ramase, mai grav, o daramare a capitalului antreprenorial.

Antreprenorul este un self-made man. Ambitios, orgolios, de multe ori frustrat. Prin forte proprii a reusit sa construiasca ceva si e mandru de ce a iesit. Din pacate s-a obisnuit sa castige (nu ma refer la bani), e ca un pugilist pe varf de cariera care are la activ 38 de victorii dintre care 8 prin KO, nu a cunoscut infrangerea. La prima infrangere va invata frica, se va indoi de el, nu va mai putea reveni in ring.

Unii nu vor mai putea fi ulterior nici angajati buni, tot timpul vor trai nostalgia afacerii lor, vor avea mereu tendinta sa se intoarca in libertate, se vor simti ca un animal la gradina zoologica la noul loc de munca. Vor avea impresia ca ceilalti colegi il privesc ca si pe un infrant, ori asa ceva este contra respectului de sine. Unii vor pleca din tara, unii se vor apuca de bautura, unii vor ajunge in mizerie, altii isi vor pune capat zilelor. Cei mai puternici, dupa o auto-lobotomizare fortata se vor aciui la Stat, citind ziare si rezolvand integrame in scop de protest, razand de sefi (majoritatea mai prosti ca ei).

Cei mai norocosi dintre intreprinzatori, putin, vor fi fortati sa se apropie de politic pentru a supravietui, unii care pana atunci nu concepeau idea o vor face din disperare. Controlul Statului va creste, intrucat acesta se va autoresponsabiliza progresiv sub presiunea maselor si a saraciei. Va distruge si ultima farama de mica initiativa, grabind procesul de corporatizare. Vor trece generatii pana cand procesul se va inversa si asta nu se va intampla decat tot ca urmare a maselor revoltate din cauza nivelul de trai si abuzurile celor care au apucat la conducere. Tot cei care au promovat Statul ca un monolit il vor sparge in bucati, lumea se va trezi la viata, insa asta va dura ani si ani…

Vedeam multe filme SciFi cu un viitor sumbru in care Primarul era si Sef de Post, proprietarul corporatiei care controla orasul. Detinea si utilitatile: apa, gazul, electricitatea, pana si aerul. De mijloacele de informare (media) nu mai vorbesc. Te urmareau prin gari, statii de autobuz, holuri etc. Banii disparusera, nu mai aveau rost. Se trecuse de la Capitalism la un nou tip de sclavagism.

Societatea nu mai poate absorbi inca un soc major. Iar socul nu trebuie sa fie neaparat material, cel psihic e mult mai periculos. Oricat ar parea de aberanta, fictiunea dispune de doza ei de credibilitate intrucat contine un element de baza: plauzabilitatea. Celalalt element, probabilitatea nu prea conteaza, intrucat exista si evenimente cu probabilitate nula care au loc in natura.

Nu inseamna ca daca n-am fost martorii unui astfel de eveniment nu se poate intampla. Unii vom fi fortati sa inventam un nou tip de matematica, cea a catastrofei, in care daca ni se intampla un dezastru o vom intelege si ne vom supune acesteia. Ceilalti vor trai linistiti cu matematica existenta, optimista.

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Apocalypse now

images (2)
Apocalypse now
La ora la care scriu aceste rânduri au mai rămas puţine ore până la sfârşitul lumii. Timpul este atât de scurt încât nici nu ştiu ce să fac mai întâi: să-mi scriu testamentul (dar ce folos?!), să cioplesc nişte vorbe înţelepte pe o piatră, pentru posteritate ( cu speranţa că atunci când va apare, poate, o nouă lume, să fiu şi eu considerat un filozof antic), să-i înjur în faţă pe unii dintre şefii mei, să le spun că-s mai deştept decât ei şi-mi ocupă locul, să ating 200km la oră cu maşina, să prizez cocaină să văd cum e (hmm! nu prea cred, prefer să mor sănătos), să cumpăr ceva bun de mâncare şi băut, să mă dezintegrez măcar cu burta plină.
După cum se vede, m-am hotărât: voi scrie un ultim articol pe blog cu speranţa că second lifeul o să ne supravieţuiească, iar dArtagnan va trăi for ever în virtual. Fac o paranteză aici, vă îndemn să comentaţi masiv la acest articol pentru a avea şi voi şansa nemuririi alături de mine.
Dar despre ce să scriu?
Despre Guvernul plin de specialişti? Despre Parlamentul supraponderal? Despre Preşedintele gură mare? Nu cred, oricum veţi scrie voi în comentariile voastre după ce veţi trece lejer de tema propusă în articol.
Adevărul e că miza mă copleşeşte. Un ultim articol, cel de dinaintea sfârşitului lumii, trebuie să fie ceva big, ceva care să îndemne la introspecţie, să fie o privire profundă şi atotcuprinzătoare asupra destinului umanităţii, a infinitului şi nimicului. Să realizăm că din praf de stele ne-am întrupat, în praf de planetă terminăm, în deplină osmoză cu Universul. Să ne gândim că peste vreun milion de ani, unii dintre noi vom ajunge să vedem gaura neagră din interiorul galaxiei noastre. Că vom ajunge la „orizontul evenimentelor“, că vom simţi pe „pielea“ noastră legile extreme ale fizicii. Când spun unii dintre noi mă refer de fapt la atomii unora dintre noi sau, în cel mai rău caz, la cuantele rămase în urma noastră.
Apropo, ştiaţi că unii susţin că sufletul este compus din cuante de energie?

Şi totuşi nu-mi trece prin cap nimic esenţial să transmit în acest ultim mesaj. Asta e.
Atunci să aşteptăm în linişte, fără să ne panicăm, data de 21.12.2012. In aceasta zi, planetele din sistemul nostru solar se vor alinia si se vor suprapune peste centrul galaxiei Calea Lactee. La ora 11.00 a.m. Atunci va fi Apocalipsa.
P.S. Ştie cineva cumva când se votează mâine, de către Parlament, guvernul Ponta 2? Nu cumva la ora 11.00 a.m.?

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