Idiot Joy Showland

This is why I hate intellectuals

Month: October, 2015

A portrait of the Person-Guy

The Person-Guy comes in many forms. Sometimes he’s just you, and all the things you like to do, reified into something that is at once a general social type and a Platonic model from which lesser beings can learn such valuable lessons as ‘it is good to have at least one daughter’ and ‘pronounce the word “helicopter” correctly, you utter cretin.’ But most of the time the Person-Guy is someone you don’t like. The Person-Guy is either very stupid, or not entirely stupid, but the wrong kind of not entirely stupid. The Person-Guy is all the vain and shallow women that ever rejected you. The Person-Guy supports a politician you have reservations about, wore a toga to a frat party, and is mysteriously close to the levers of power. The Person-Guy is absolutely real.

It’s the other one, the Person-Guy, that things happen to. The Person-Guy exists in short, declarative sentences, generally structured around some form of the verb ‘to be’, and arranged in no particular order. The Person-Guy is the cause of every evil and frustration in your life. The Person-Guy only wears odd socks, because he thinks that wasting our limited lifespan sorting them into matching pairs is indicative of a potentially authoritarian neurosis. The Person-Guy has a minor vocal tic, and it sends you into strange daylight fantasies; tearing out his throat with your bare hands, feeling the frantic little pulses of blood as they spurt and froth around your claws and then go cold. The Person-Guy likes all the same things you like, which is why you hate him. The Person-Guy is not reading this article. Only you are reading this article.

The Person-Guy tells you that he’s getting really ‘into’ candles. He spends most of his day lighting candles with a specialist Egyptian cotton taper, and then extinguishing them with the tips of his fingers. He goes to trendy candle clubs to hang out with other Person-Guys. He subscribes to Candle Lighter’s Monthly. You visit his loft apartment in Brooklondon or Berlyn, and every flat surface is covered with candles. A few of them are lit, scattered randomly around the room; tealights drooping precariously by the inevitable stacks of yellowing old books, elegant purple ones dribbling hot streams of wax to pool in the mason jars and espresso cups they’ve been unceremoniously jammed into, one big spluttering log of a candle that sits under a soot-smeared stain on the ceiling. He doesn’t offer you a seat; the Person-Guy doesn’t believe in outmoded notions of chivalry, and besides, all the chairs bristle with rare candles. You try to make small-talk with the Person-Guy – you’re not friends, exactly, and you’re certainly not into him, but you’ve known each other a long while – but he looks distracted; there’s a fluttering gleam in his eyes, and his fingers keep twitching; he’s only pretending to listen, he’s waiting for you to leave so he can start lighting candles and then putting them out again. You’re almost mesmerised by the quick and impulsive movements of his forefinger and thumb, their snap and tremble, and it takes you a while before you notice, with a start, just how scarred and calloused they are, skin clinkered like the surface of a lava flow, blocks of darkened leathery flesh torn between weeping chasms. You make your hurried excuses, and the Person-Guy lets you leave with an almost catatonic indifference, but one you’re out of there you can’t resist the temptation to look over your shoulder, and through his window you see the soft, undulating light of lots of different candles being lit and then put out. You know someone like the Person-Guy. Everyone knows someone like the Person-Guy. How can they not realise what they’re like?

The Person-Guy is always at the top of your Facebook feed. He has some opinion about something you don’t care about, and insists that all his friends be endlessly subjected to it. The Person-Guy takes hundreds of selfies every time he goes out and posts them all online, endless iterations of the Person-Guy and his girlfriends bending over to make kissy-faces at the camera so their tits are almost popping out the top of their skimpy dresses, and if you don’t like and comment on enough of them he’ll stop talking to you. The Person-Guy keeps inviting you to play some stupid browser game. The Person-Guy publicly wishes you happy birthday every year, and then doesn’t even message you once in the intervening three hundred and sixty-four days. The Person-Guy writes long letters to the world at large, packed with banal pseudo-philosophical insights about how you need to believe in yourself and why other people’s opinions don’t matter, limp gutless phrases crammed like worms in a shoebox, and then hashtags it ‘#gym #workout #hatersgonnahate’. The Person-Guy continually writes ‘too’ instead of ‘to’, and it appears to be deliberate, but you have no idea why.

You slept with the Person-Guy once, and you’re still ashamed of it, but afterwards you decided to learn some self-respect and in a weird way that experience kinda made you the person you are today.

You are fine. The Person-Guy is everything objectionable. The Person-Guy is the grim truth of all social relations: that the human being is a burden, that to talk to someone is labour, that everything you do in the company of another is only the absence of everything else you could be doing instead. The Person-Guy has clammy hands. The Person-Guy claims to like classical music, but only knows the pieces that have been in films. The Person-Guy makes a big show of every nice thing he does, as if it’s not just basic human decency. Every attempt the Person-Guy makes at kindness only justifies your hatred. The Person-Guy is responsible for the melting of the ice caps, the lack of decent affordable housing, the expropriation of surplus value, the ivory trade, the fact that all living things must one day die, the absence of an interventionist God, the short shelf-life of organic groceries, the traffic jams on the M4, the weird smell in underpasses, the heat death of the Universe, the mole on your chin, the little accusing voice that keeps you up all night, the fat balding creature that squints at you from the mirror, and the Syrian civil war. The Person-Guy turns his soft, doughy, witless head to look you in the eyes, and his face is nowhere to be seen. It is not illegal to kill the Person-Guy.

As soon as he is named, the Person-Guy vanishes. He has no mass or motion. He is the type, abstract and globe-girdling, pressed into shape for unknown purposes by an unknown god. He exists only as a cloud of attributes; individually insubstantial, in combination each point is the tip of spear that rips through his hideous body. To describe something is to annihilate it, and the Person-Guy has been annihilated. His entrails litter the streets. But still he shambles on, a formless form, all spit and tendons, grasping against the grit of the paving-slabs inch by laboured inch, as if he doesn’t know that he ought to be dead.

2015 Democratic debate: the expert view

TROWEL HENDERMAN: Hi, and welcome to our exclusive analysis of yesterday’s first Democratic Party debate, brought to you live from Las Vegas, the ‘glittering crystalline city in the middle of an endless desert that ought not to exist.’® It’s going to be an evening of furious debate and expert commentary, in an election season that broke all the rules. I’m your moderator, Trowel Henderman, and let me just say we’ve got a great panel here for you: we’ve got sexually active foreign policy consultant and former NSA bigwig John Pulsings! We’ve got YouTube star and professional woman Ashley Spootz! We’ve got civil rights activist and GlaxoSmithKline brand ambassador Marcus Choleric! And, last but not least, we’ve got your very own stereotyped Jewish mother! Let’s give it up for your mother, folks!

[The studio audience signal on one side of the room blares the word OEDIPUS. On the other side, it reads APHANISIS. Mild, confused applause.]

JOHN PULSINGS: Great to be here, Trowel.

YOUR MOTHER: But my gawd, it’s so cold out. Isn’t Vegas meant to be nice this time of year? I knew I shoulda packed a scarf. You boys’ll catch chill in those shoddy thin suits, mark my words.

TROWEL HENDERMAN: So let’s start with the big story. Hillary Clinton absolutely stole that debate, didn’t she? Confident, assured, she had all the right lines in all the right places – let’s take a look.

[The first clip rolls. HILLARY CLINTON, perfectly coiffed, a wry and cheeky chipmunk’s grin planted adorably in the middle of her face, is outlining her progressive agenda for the United States of America. She talks passionately and knowledgeably, bringing to bear her firm liberal principles and her wealth of personal experience, both inside the hall of government and outside of them. But it’s strange: afterwards, it’s hard to remember exactly what it is she said. If you had eyes to see, you’d see that her lips aren’t even moving. You’d see the blood, splattered in tiny droplets by her fingernails, smudged on her cheeks, swelling with frothy bubbles of spittle by her stretched-thin slit of a mouth. You’d see the gold and the silk adorning a body that’s blotchy and grey and bloated from twelve thousand years of putrefaction. If you had ears to hear, you’d hear the dull monotone that chokes from a bulging sac halfway down the creature’s throat. This world is mine, it says, and I have claimed it. First woman President This world is mine and I have claimed it. First woman President.But you have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. Didn’t she do a brilliant job?]

MARCUS CHOLERIC: You know, Trowel, watching that truly rousing performance I was put in mind of the words of the great Huey P. Newton.

[Sixty seconds pass in silence.]

TROWEL HENDERMAN: What words were those, Marcus?

MARCUS CHOLERIC: Oh, none in particular. Just his words. His general words.

ASHLEY SPOOTZ: So just in regards of what you were just saying I just thought that Hillary was just so spectacular and all the other people there were just some gross old white cis het men who aren’t even fit to be smashed to a fine pulp under her perfect shoes and tbh I don’t even know why she shared a stage with them when she doesn’t even need to get elected it’s not like any of them could ever win because she was just born for this role you know she’s the queen she’s just the queen she’s got like billions of dollars and she was born to rule and queens don’t have to go debate with commoners they just sit up on their totally lux diamond encrusted throne but not with diamonds from conflict regions and everyone else like all the poor people just bow down in the mud and turds and she just orders them to be tortured to death with knives and tongs or whatever and large pear-shaped devices that are slowly inserted into a man’s anus before the spring-loaded razors inside tear his innards to tagliatelle and then we can finally start just dismantling white supremacist patriarchal capitalism in this country? [She resumes texting or sexting or whatever it is young people do on their phones all day]

JOHN PULSINGS: Two out of ten. Would not hit.

TROWEL HENDERMAN: But Hillary’s been on the back foot for most of this campaign so far – there’s been the persistent accusations that she mishandled the Benghazi crisis, there’s the issue of her emails, there’s the feeling that she’s only up there because of her second name. How well do you think she handled her critics?

YOUR MOTHER: Those boys were so cruel to her. [Dabbing a tissue to the corner of one eye.] I don’t know what their poor mothers must think. Some people just weren’t brought up right.

MARCUS CHOLERIC: She shut them down fine and she shut them down fast. When Anderson asked about so-called private email account, and she said… she said…. [His eyes start rolling. A thin line of blood trickles down from one of his ears] she said…

TROWEL HENDERMAN: Now of course the biggest threat to her campaign so far has come from the surprise insurgent campaign of self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. Could this be the start of a revolution in American politics? Let’s see what he has to say for himself.

[Second clip. It’s a TOMATO: red on the outside, soggy on the inside, and technically not a vegetable. We cut to the TOMATO in the middle of a quick-fire debate. The TOMATO speaks: ‘Let me be clear. No, let me be clear. Bernie Sanders is not a hippie. You wanna have a woar? Let’s have a woar! I support woar! Give me the damn co-ordinates! Bernie Sanders will be there in a B-52, dropping bombs on whatever foreign country you want. But once again let me be clear. When we’ve wiped out the rest of the world, the fight is coming to those coiporations. Because those coiporations are the number one enemy of the middle class in America! They make me so mad! I could putz! Fuck!’]

YOUR MOTHER: Oy, he reminds me of your great-uncle Mintzy before he passed away. Such narishkeit from that man. His poor heart gave in, you know.

JOHN PULSINGS: Trowel, we gotta talk about my main dude Jim Webb. Man, he tore up that debate like I tear up virgin pussy. Who else in there has that kind of military experience? Who else had the balls to use the debate to start directly issuing personal threats to the Chinese politburo? I’m talking cajones here, Trowel, did you even know those guys have the biggest army in the world? There’s a war coming, folks, and it’s gonna be the big one. I was speaking to a good friend of mine, I can’t tell you his name for security reasons, but he’s General Michael Harassment, head of the Army’s cyberwarfare division, and he told me the Chinese have planted thousands of tiny nukes inside all the phones they build there and ship over to the United States. And they can use these nukes to make our phones send incriminating text messages to underage girls. You think Hillary Clinton has what it takes to deal with a threat like that? So what if Hillary Clinton killed tens of thousands of people in Libya? Did she do it with her own rippling, muscled hands? Roll the tape, Trowel. Roll the fucking tape.

[It’s the final round of the debate: the comedy question. ANDERSON COOPER asks the candidates who their first celebrity guest would be in the White House. JIM WEBB stands stock-straight, passing a flick-knfe from one hand to the other, the muscles squirming and straining in his neck. He looks straight into the camera. ‘I killed a guy in Nam,’ he growls. ‘I looked him dead in the eye when I did it. I wanted to know what it was like. He tried to close his eyes, so I held them open as I cut his throat. He was just a kid, some sixteen-year-old gook from one of the villages, who’d run away to join with the VC. He thrashed around when I cut him. The rain came down and the earth turned to mud and he thrashed around like a pig in the dirt. And then he stopped. I saw his eyes go still, and while he kept staring, there was nothing behind that blackness. No spark, no fire, not any more. I looked into his eyes and suddenly I knew everything. A human being is just a hundred and thirty pound sack of meat, nothing less, nothing more. You put the right meat in the right places and you get what you want. That’s all there is. So my first guest to the White House would be John Cena.’ He grins.]

TROWEL HENDERMAN: Well, that brings us to the end of our show. Final thoughts?

MARCUS CHOLERIC: Aite, I’m not being paid for this, but ladies, if you’ve got yourself a urinary tract infection, you need to get yourself some Augmentin brand antibiotics right now.

JOHN PULSINGS: I’ve had sex.

ASHLEY SPOOTZ: Don’t @ me.

YOUR MOTHER: It’s a disgrace. If I want to talk to you I have to go on a nationally syndicated panel show. Would it kill you to just call once in a while?

TROWEL HANDERMAN: And that’s all we’ve got time for. Thanks from everyone here in Las Vegas. Tune in next time, folks.

[Applause. Studio lights dim. On a single still-lit screen above our learned panel, LINCOLN CHAFEE, a creature resembling a plucked chicken, is banging his fists against the glass, screaming something we can’t quite hear, something about bombing a hospital in Afghanistan, something that might almost be important, but his lips are so strangely shaped and his posture so mesmerisingly weird that it’s impossible to make out what he’s saying. A caged animal arouses sympathy, but it passes, it always does. MARTIN O’MALLEY was also involved in the debate.]

Justin Bieber’s dick: reflections from the limits of psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is the discourse of the dark and distant places, whether the inner caverns of the psyche or the forbidden pit between the legs; its contention isn’t just that these places can be meaningful and significant, but that it’s in this void that meaning and significance take place. And there’s no chasm blacker than early childhood. Nobody remembers their first few years, their first neuroses, their first steps, their first words. We think before we are. It’s as if we all emerged as fully speaking beings, springing fully-formed like Greek gods out of the placid seas. Anything we do remember is generally false: I thought I knew what my own first memory was, something about playing with toy trucks in the bath, until one day I discovered that no, it was a photograph I’d seen years later, and that’s why in my mind’s eye I’m always hovering a few feet in front of my own face. Freud calls these ‘screen memories,’ they cover up a childhood inevitably full of repressed traumas. There’s a kind of circular logic here: psychoanalysis insists that the essential truths of the psyche must spring from this distant and forgotten world, and then proposes that it must have been forgotten because of the essential truths buried within. Which is not to say that this is incorrect. But if I’m honest, my earliest memories are all dreams, specifically, nightmares. Elongated hallways and thudding footsteps, ordinary places turned eerily unreal, and something approaching; the childhood terror of a Thing without qualities. Besides those, nothing: flashes, instants, bursts of light that stutter briefly in a darkness seething with unseen monsters. Everything that actually happened I only know through stories from people who were there. It all happened to somebody else. Which is fortunate for some: if it worked any other way, everyone could be their own analyst.

Sometimes people afraid of dying are told that death is just like how it was before you were born, a comforting line that does nothing to comfort: back then I wasn’t, but I’m here right now, existing, to one day stop, there’s no comparison. It’s more like those first few years of existence – you’re there, growing, bloating, rotting, but the whole experience is unperceived. In Heidegger, the death of Dasein is the condition of its individuality; death belongs to it alone, and nobody else can die for it. This is nonsense. Death is, after all, not an event in experience (Wittgenstein concurs here: ‘We do not live to experience death’), but it is experienced, by our survivors. Our death belongs only and always to other people. And childhood too: childhood, the order of the Imaginary, Oedipus – our prehistory is not our own.

Say a young boy is terrified of horses. Normally a perfectly ordinary child, good-tempered and healthily perverse, at the sight of horses he goes into fits; watching through shuttered hands as the poor docile cart-horses from the coaching house across the street wearily clop over the cobblestones; their nodding, snorting unconsciousness sets him shrieking, bawling, shivering. And he’s always at the balcony: he says he’s waiting for the little girl to appear through the opposite window, but in the meantime he delights himself by being terrified of horses. ‘I have to look at horses, and then I’m frightened.’ Naturally the parents are worried: as devotees of the eminent psychologist Sigmund Freud, they’ve tried to raise their child to be as happy and uninhibited as possible; they can’t understand where they could possibly have gone wrong. So they enlist his help. Sigmund talks to the boy, briefly, with only a little condescension, and then afterwards the child races to the balcony to watch the distinguished psychologist crossing the street. Sigmund Freud paces quickly, wrapping his overcoat tight around his bones against the cold, as he hurries over to the coaching house to speak with one of the horses. A big muscular creature, stained city-white, black harness, black blinkers. He talks seriously and animatedly to the horse, taking off his glasses, stowing them in his overcoat, putting them back on again, blowing big clouds of pipe-smoke into the frosty air. The horse nods solemnly, or bares its gnashing yellow teeth, and all the while its monstrous penis slowly extends, brown and slimy, steam rising from the creature’s great heaving haunches as it discusses it’s son’s curious phobia. And the boy watches, trembling through his tears, full of ancient and unknowable terror.

Little Hans was afraid that his father, embodied as a horse, would come and cut off his penis, a fear that’s so elementary and constitutive of the subject that it’s in a way more true than truth itself. Freud, in his case study of the child, gains most of his understanding of the situation by talking to the father himself; while his entire approach is governed by the idea that Hans is terrified for an explicable reason, that ‘the arbitrary has no existence in mental life,’ there’s still the shroud that falls over childhood that makes it impossible to access from the outside. So he talks to the father, a sensible Freudian himself, to get the facts. Hans is afraid that a horse will bite off his piddler, and Freud goes and discusses the issue with the horse. But there’s one question he doesn’t ask. So, do you? Do you want to cut your son’s dick off?

Psychoanalysis is also, like any symbolic discourse, a discourse of the father; in other words, one in which the actual father is conspicuously absent. The psychoanalytic father is the Symbolic father; both as paternal principle in the order of the Symbolic and as the fundamental and generative phallic signifier. A son’s feelings towards his father are psychoanalytically significant; the father’s towards his son are not. In Lacan, the castration complex ends with what is in a sense an actual castration: the infant, cowed by the father’s potency, abandons any attempt to identify itself with the imaginary phallus; thereafter the phallus is always conceived as that which one lacks. It’s something that belongs to the other, and induction into the Symbolic order of signifiers, in which the phallus is the first, is compensation for this loss. But what happens when the infant grows up, and has children of his own? What happened when Hans became a horse himself? Did he remember the fear he once felt, as he clattered blithely over his own cobblestones? In Freud the child fears castration from the terrifying and priapic father; but in Lacan the father was already castrated a long time ago. And now he’s faced by a red-faced, screaming thing that does not happen to itself, without language, without reason, an unmediated and purely phallic presence. Wouldn’t the immediate, buried instinct be to cut it off?

All this is by way of talking about the nude photos supposedly of Justin Bieber that were recently leaked online. Two things are significant here. Firstly, the fact that the neurotic castrati of online are simultaneously transfixed by the question of how big it is and entirely unable to provide themselves with a satisfying answer. There’s a particular hatred for Justin Bieber that seems to emanate entirely from adult men: they complain that his music is terrible (it’s not that bad, really), as if trying to establish a narcissism of small differences between themselves and a twelve-year-old girl; the real complaint can only be his function as the object of the other’s desire. In other words, from the perspective of psychoanalysis, they hate Justin Bieber because he is their own father. Secondly, there’s this:

The original has been deleted, as if that could fix anything. This is of course Bieber’s father, proudly announcing to the world that he deliberately sought out pornographic images of his own son, and who has essentially sent him a “fuck me daddy” tweet. Some context: Bieber père separated from the star’s mother when he was thirteen months old, and has seemingly returned to cash in on his child’s celebrity; in 2014 it was revealed in a court case that Justin pays his father’s $1,650 monthly rent, nicely inverting the traditional Oedipal triad. In 2002, he allegedly kicked an eighteen-year-old woman in the face, breaking her jaw in two places, after she ejected him from a party at which he boasted that he could beat up anyone in the room and demanded that she lift up her shirt. In another incident, he abused and harassed flight attendants on a private jet. He pushed his four-year-old son’s face into a birthday cake, whereupon Justin tried to calm the child’s tears by showing him images of the event so he could see how funny it was. Of course Jeremy wants to cut his son’s dick off, of course that was what he meant when he leeringly commented on how big it is – like so many millions of others, he ascribes phallus to Justin Bieber, a phallus that even in Lacan can never entirely escape its penile origin; like all of us, his subject is the precipitate of lost objects, the sum total of everything it doesn’t have. Presence belongs to the other, and the paternal instinct is to abolish it. Like every other seemingly normal and healthy person, Jeremy Bieber hungers for the end of the world. But the point isn’t to form a psychoanalysis of the Bieber family, to add some Freudian tinge to the ordinary game of speculating about the private lives of the celebs. The point is to see how Justin Bieber’s dick can push through the edges of psychoanalysis itself, plumb though that hazy region where science fades into the black tomb of infantility and death.

Like the phallus as such, Justin Bieber’s dick is a signifier without a signified. It belongs to nobody – beamed across the world, leered over by millions – certainly not to him. The waking world is the site of an infinite dislocation: there’s a unity and wholeness to its outside, but that happens to someone else, a real person, of which we are only the tumbling echo. The mournful ghost of a world we lost long ago. A hypothetical retort to Freud’s theory of infantile amnesia: early childhood is not forgotten because of the traumas that occur, but because in the absence of trauma there’s no need for memory – after all, in his Project for a Scientific Psychology Freud himself conceives of memory, whether conscious or repressed, as a traumatic breaching in the brain. It’s in these dark places or non-places that psychoanalysis seeks out its truths. Justin Bieber’s dick invites us to step across the threshold of existence into something not fully conceivable: a psychoanalysis of the afterlife.

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