The first in a series of essays exploring what is the System, the failures of trying to ‘hack’ it, and how we can find hope in the Holy Ghost.
“I THREW IT ON THE GROUND. I’M NOT PART OF YOUR SYSTEM, MAN!”- Andy Samberg
“The supreme luxury of the society of technical necessity will be to grant the bonus of useless revolt and of an acquiescent smile.” - Jacques Ellul
In 2009, Lonely Island released the musical sketch “Threw it on the Ground” for Saturday Night Live. The sketch, a crunk parody that satirized gen x anti conformity, featured a ganghipster whom would reject innocuous handouts or gifts, throwing these object against the ground and declaring that he was not part of their ‘system’. The sketch ended with the protagonist scorning some ‘Hollywood phonies’ and being tazed in the ‘butthole’.
The sketch’s humor was interpreted by widespread audience to be a condemnation of arrested development- the protagonist was smugly interpreting any and every gesture of goodwill as conforming to modern society, which he for ‘whatever reason’ was against. I remember certain personalityless peers in school and internet commentators who had yet to be poisoned by internet addiction reciting ‘I’m not part of your system, man!’ as a kind of ironic slogan that critiqued the one track minded approach to those who were in opposition to the establishment, or even really anyone who had any anarchist leanings.
What most people won’t realize is that this sketch actually, rather brilliantly I may add, highlights exactly the tendency by which a free-thinking individual operates under the yoke of the globotechnocracy. In fact, I’m sure it is not a stretch to say that Mr. Samberg and co. are huge fans of a certain lifetime jailed Harvard mathematician, and no doubt crack open “Technological Slavery” under candlelight to discuss and debate.
The idea of the System does not seem so laughable these days. As globalization increases, and as the tendrils of control slither around our supple bodies like hentai fuck dolls, the joking of the Lonely Island seems innocent and quaint, a holdover from Obama era optimism. But what is this boogeyman ‘system’ anyway?
Uncle Ted’s Cabin
In his essay “The System’s Neatest Trick”, Kaczynski describes what the System is not, but never gets around to answering what it is. On a philosophical level this can be a bit frustrating, but with some interpretive analysis we can determine a couple things based in part on the essay, Kaczynski’s writing at large, and what he was in dialog with regards to both what he might have been agreeing with and in argument with.
First off, Kaczynski notes that the System is not primarily the members, enforcers, profiteers, or maintainers of the System. As he says,
“it is not [president at the time] George W. Bush…the cops who maltreat protestors…The CEOs of multinational corporations…the Frankensteins in their laboratories who criminally tinker with the genes of living things…they are servants of the System, but in themselves they do not constitute the System.”
The importance of pointing this out is twofold.
1. The System is a much more abstract concept than simply saying it is made up of the members that maintain it. To play with the Deleuzian concept, we can imagine that the System is a ‘body with organs’, the organs here being perhaps corporations, governments, media, so on, comprised of ‘cells’ of living tissue that would be, for example, the individuals or groups that maintain the organs. The organs however are not part of the whole body, the body here being the System itself, which is autonomous to the organs, but needs the organs to thrive.
a. Another way to look at this is David Icke’s metaphysical model of our perceived world, which he separates out into two categories- the Spider, and the Web. The Spider are the elites, Reptilians, Illuminati, or simply the powerful architects of the Web, the Web being a vast, interwoven tapestry of commerce, art, and so on that serves to ensnare the common man (insects of nourishment to the Spider). Here, the Web can be understood as the System.
b. I take the time to make this distinction because terms like ‘society’ do not really do justice to the kind of ‘living’ quality the System has, which will adapt to changes in the organs (political shifts, war, protests, etc.) and try to thrive further. In addition, the System as terminology also implies a mechanical process, one that is regulatory and tinkered with. The ‘Frankensteins’ and antichrists however are trying to blur these differences, and therefore System works entirely as a definition.
2. Kaczynski is in dialog with a kind of academic leftist notion of what is going on with the System. He makes it a point, for example, in Systems Neatest Trick to highlight further that the individuals who take advantage of the System (through fraud, corruption, and so on) are not actually serving the System, and in fact acting as detriments.
a. Furthermore, he points out that the police brutality and those who are against multiculturalism are actually antithetical to the System’s needs. The System thrives both when there is no violence, where people are working with the System rather than against it. Rejection of nasties such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. actually serve the System more, as it means more people working in the System directly and also simply more consumption and production of consumptive objects.
b. We can assume the leftist argument is in relation to his point in Industrial Society and its Future about leftist psychology, which takes on a victim complex even when the media is agreement with leftist ideology (see, for example, the amount of coverage the media was giving in the Summer of Hate to the protests etc., despite the fact that the media is fully a tendril of elite/Spider/etc. propagation. You can call me a ‘reactionary’ for this, but even the critical theory Marxists will agree with me on this.
i. Does nobody remember the staggeringly stupid/brilliant ad run by Pepsi that featured a vague protest and one of the Kardashian girls giving a cop a soda? Being a protestor has been sold long ago as a fashionable ‘outfit’ or commodity by which the individual can suit up and take on ‘American fascism’ while ignoring the fact that, again, every corporation, media outlet, and so on was in full agreement with the protestors. Real transgressive!
c. This argument with leftist psychology is important because, as he elaborates further in “System’s Neatest Trick,’ it is the victimized feeling and the hopelessness from capitalism, globalism, and technocracy that fully envelops the soul and leads to a doomed cycle of false rebellion and false retribution. Marxists and leftists will always go after the individuals in the System, ignoring entirely that even if the System were stacked with ‘their guys’, they would never be satisfied, nor would their perceptively vague pipedream of ‘universal equality’ or whatever come into existence.
The System’s Neatest Trick- an Abominable Act of Black Magic
So now we have a general understanding of what Kaczynski was going for with his definition of the System (or lack therefore), let us continue now to what he calls the “System’s Neatest Trick”.
Trick is an appropriate term here. Much as the magician or conjurer uses acts of deceit by which to hide their hand and create the illusion, the ‘trick’ here illustrates how the System both adapts to the rapid changes in technology while also placating those who are frustrated by the changes and domination of said tech changes in their personal lives.
The trick is a feedback loop that works thusly:
1. We, as individuals on a micro level, are mere cogs in a continuously growing and unifying system- as the banks, governments, industries, and so on conglomerate to staggering proportions, and as our labor becomes more and more redundant or otherwise spiritually pointless, we turn to anger, frustration, and so on.
a. They tell you your work should never feel like ‘work’, but what they don’t tell you is that your work should be ‘fruitful’. It shouldn’t be surprising that the concept of a tree and its fruit should appear so often throughout the bible- from the tree of labor, that is from what we produce, the fruit should not only be plentiful but nourishing. Someone, for example, who works a middle management job can trick themselves into believing their labor has benefits to say their employees or company, and that the service therein may benefit the community to some degree, their labor is probably not really fruitful at all to their own community, and were they to be fired or their company dissolved, besides the economic depression that would probably befall their community, their labor and the fruits would not be missed, in fact, most members of the community would not even know, or care.
i. Consider, for example, the television show ‘the office’. Dunder Mifflin, a small paper and office supply company, was run by committed workers who came and went, but when branches were shut down and the company shaken up, the town of Scranton seemed not to take heed. In fact, were Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute or Jim Halpert or any of the team to be laid off, no one in town would care. No one would care or notice of the company went under and vanished off the face of the earth, other than again a slight economic depression that would inevitably hit Scranton.
ii. Compare this to, say, hunter-gatherer communities such as the American Indian, Inuit, or New Zealand natives, where the small size and the necessity of survival and communal give and take led to, as multiple anthropologists have commented that, despite the sometimes sparse or marginal lifestyle, the members of said communities were often more happy and free from mental illness. (see letters to David Skrbina on this matter.). Don’t believe me? Look at the accounts of those kidnapped or defected to Native American tribes that more often than not chose not to return to Western Society, while natives forced to integrate into Western Society were miserable and even suicidal. This is not just because of the forced integration, it is also because Western society seeks to grow The System rather than imbue any community with a spirit of any sorts.
2. Because of our anger, alienation, depression, directionlessness, and so on from living in the System, we become compelled to lash out and rebel. The protagonist of ‘threw it on the ground’, for example, is pissed off at the System, given that any attempt to connect to his aloof alienation (which is encouraged of course by the System, as aloof intellectualism is a byproduct of the university system).
3. However, the System recognizes this and absorbs this impulse, and steers this impulse to engineer social change to rid the System of the old, outdated values that no longer serve the System’s needs.
a. For example, the idea of transgender individuals using the bathroom was, say, 15 years ago seen as controversial, or even morally wrong. However, as transgenderism has grown as gender theory, there is more legitimacy to transgender individuals not only using the bathroom, but going out and about as their ‘true selves’. The System has already begun pushing away anti trans rhetoric, as it wants transgender people to continue producing and consuming.
ii. This is not me criticizing those that believe in their hearts that they are of another gender than their biological one, nor that transgenderism in of itself is necessarily wrong either morally or materially, but more so that The System has every reason to work with these individuals rather than against. It’s just good business.
iii. My view on this is that one should transcend identity politics and simply be. Identity politics simply serve as labels for marketers to sell more specific goods and service to you. Someone who defies labels and is ontologically free from identity politics is a problem for the System, because they need to market to you.
4. The rage you and I feel towards the System is now directed towards perceived injustices, and as we ‘rage against the machine’ we simply act as the vultures picking apart the carrion of a dying piece of the System.
Again, looking at our previous example of the “threw it on the ground’ protagonist, he 1. Feels upset at the System, but is not sure the exact reasons why other than a vague need to be a nonconformist 2. Rebels against the system by protesting or refusing acts of generosity 3. Is satisfied for the moment, but will never be fully satisfied by the outcome of his actions, and will simply continue committing acts of petty protest until he is tazed in the butthole (notice- this is when he actually goes against members of the system- the Hollywood ‘phonies’).
1. The System is the interconnected pieces of capital, technology, media, politics, etc.
2. The System is not merely the individuals therein.
a. These individuals are maybe even personally against the system by way of either resentment, criminal acts that hurt the System, violent attitudes, or in trying to stop more people from being absorbed into the System.
3. This System is making you very unhappy, so you want to rebel.
a. However, the system knows that and simply directs this impulse towards obsolete ideas or institutions that no longer serve the System.
b. The act of rebellion makes you feel good, but it never quite satisfies you, because all you did was amend the system, not overthrow the System.
In my next article, I will discuss this last point more, which I call “hacking the System”, and why such attitudes never lead to any sort of transcendence, only a grim cycle of being a cog.
1. “but IP FREELY, I’m not sad under the System! I like the System! You are just being reactionary/a Nazi/a technophobe/etc.” idk how I can help you out. Consider it a disagreement of opinion. However, it is worth noting that you probably are unhappy to some degree, suffer from modern malaise (depression, anxiety, etc.) and probably have to keep justifying to yourself your lifestyle. You probably take a lot of pleasure in material goods for brief dopamine rushes, or social media, or whatever. Come back to me in 10, 15, or even (heaven help me if so) 20 years, when you are having some midlife crisis, or feel suicidal or nihilistic that what you are doing with your life is fruitless, empty, vacuous, and sad. Could it be that this phenomenon is what everyone experiences in life, or is it a byproduct of living in a technocracy that demands you keep consuming and producing?
a. Industrial Society and its Consequences would be my first recommended reading to consider the simple perspective that this way of life just ain’t right.
b. Most establishment types love technology bc It make them money and keeps you complacent. So, continue scrolling. Continue falling deeper and deeper into your Black Vortex. Don’t you dare look at your life as an objective force, like a ghost in a corner or a security camera, watching you seated at your couch watching tik toks and youtube for hours on end.
2. Ted K has recently amended the systems neatest trick. In 2002, when originally published, he had pointed out that some of the rage that went after outdated elements of the System was also directed towards radical leaders who sought to change the System too much. This is how neoliberalism has been maintained, and why say Bernie Sanders did not win the election. However, the amended element of this is that, by 2016, the system is
‘now perceived as the agency that forces social changes on American society…those who are offended by the changes turn their resentment against the System itself. This is an important part of the reason, perhaps the main reason, why Donald Trump has attracted a large and passionate following.”
The radicals are now part of the system.
a. I however would argue that this is actually keeping in line with the Trick. Right wing thinkers and protestors are not really immune to the ‘hack the system’ complex, but simply want to rewind the system a bit to a socially more conservative time, while maintaining the economic prosperity that comes with capitalism. True capitalism however welcomes progressivism, and this is why movements such as America First, alt right, etc. will never be successful (not to mention they are up against global forces that seek to unify the world under the banner of a one state, one economy, etc. system.)
i. Again, it is better to not associate with political identity, as it only will ever serve to put you in a simplified common space for maximal advertising reasons. Though I have reservations about the Unist movement, I will contend that the movement’s full embrace of all political opinion under the banner of tech/globalism skepticism and condemnation in conjunction with Agape Love is so unique and antithetical to the System that it can only serve to transgress.