Not Bill but Joan

Bill, armed

A few months ago, I traveled to the Performing Arts Forum in St. Erme France. I have been thinking about guns ever since.

I went to talk about sex. The other speaker’s talk was on sects. It would have been funny, that unintended homophone, if it weren’t for the real similarities. If it weren’t for the thing about guns.

Performing Arts Forum isn’t like anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s not a lecture series or an artist’s retreat or a commune, though it could look like any of those from a certain vantage. The lectures at PA-F go on for hours in a free form, open ended monologue. The daily events are written in chalk on a blackboard and changed by anyone at any time. Dinner typically begins at 9 and is prepared by a crew of chefs and whomever happens to wander into the kitchen looking for an espresso. For a few years when I was a teenager I was lucky enough to attend a sleep away summer camp at a relaxed hippy place with no required activities and lots of time to find yourself. PA-F is a little like that.

Anyway. As a part of his talk on sects, the other speaker, Jason, told a story about the Old Man of the Mountain, Hassan-I Sabbah. The story was, I think, intended to exemplify the indistinct border between magical and charismatic efficacy. To the best of my memory, it went something like this: The followers of the Old Man of the Mountain believed in his powers with notable fervor. One day, a visitor to Alamut asked how Hassan-I Sabbah could be certain of the powers he claimed to wield. In response, he instructed one of his disciples to throw himself off the edge of the mountain, which the disciple did without hesitation. Neither Hassan-I Sabbah nor his visitor checked on the disciple’s fate, but the point was clear enough. If magic is the power to make things happen, then Hassan-I Sabbah’s magic was real. And beyond that? Well, we are in any case not given to know.

These disciples are of course those famous killers the Assassins who close the invocation with which William Burroughs opens his revolutionary time travel-occult detective-pirates, plague, and pederasty novel Cities of the Red Night. After calling on magical entities of many periods and regions, Burroughs ends the invocation by dedicating the book “to all the scribes and artists and practitioners of magic through whom these spirits have been manifested…NOTHING IS TRUE EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED.” That final capitalized phrase may now be most familiar from the video game Assassin’s Creed, but it came to Burroughs via Aleister Crowley, who took it from Fredreich Nietzsche, who took it from the Old Man of the Mountain.

In other words, guns and magic. From sects to sex, with an interval of philosophy. I have no problem with the sex, of course, and certainly no qualms at all about philosophy. It’s the sects that bother me.

Here’s another example. Genesis Breyer P-orridge appears in a studio photo for Throbbing Gristle wearing a shirt that says “Free Men Bear Arms.” In another, later photograph, the older and genderqueered Gen appears with Lady Jaye. Both have automatic weapon pendant necklaces dangling down their chests.

Gen, armed

I have no idea what to say about this.

I feel foolish. Of course the guns have always been there. I just didn’t see them.

Worst of all, it’s not just a matter of figuring out how to unsee the guns–as if I could ever live with that–but of reckoning with the real similarities. Because force is prominent in all of these domains–guns, magic, and philosophy. I could name it “will”, I suppose, though “force” is the term I use throughout my own writing, citing Deleuze or citing Foucault. Relations of force. Fields of force. Of course there are guns. Of course I have my own arsenal. It just pleases me to call it rhetoric.

So I’ve been thinking about it, and one thing that has come clear to me in the months since my time at PA-F is that I can’t do this work, still less the project that brought me to the Occulture, if I can’t find my way through this problem.

And yes this is a version of the Pepe/Kek dilemma. I thought I understood how to see my way through it, but I don’t. So here I am.

At least I have company. Other people seem to be confronting versions of this problem in their own ways, and those conversations seem to center around Nick Land. So here’s what some other people have been saying lately. Maybe something here will help.

Nick Land interviewed by Marko Bauer and Andrej Tomazin:

–>tl;dr Land is fascinating and convincing except when he sounds like he might have voted to restrict access to abortion

Alexander Galloway on Accelerationism compared to Xenofeminism:

–>tl;dr It’s titled Brometheanism

Amy Ireland on Nick Land:

–>tl;dr This is not some one-off blog post. It is all that Amy Ireland brilliance.

McKenzie Wark on Nick Land:

–>tl;dr “Land achieved notoriety in recent years as a prophet of Neo-reaction. I’m not going to say much about those texts, although they do pose questions for reading the early work.”