Category Archives: General

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putting the monkey on notice

Looks like I’m not the only one to have returned to the birdsite at a moment when everything that prompted my leaving it has arguably intensified to a peak; Ryan Oakley’s back, as well.

(We’ll let you know when the other two horsemen of this particularly inverted apocalypse are on their way, assuming we ever work out who they are.)

As always, Ryan’s got a keen eye on the innerscape:

The other weird thing, after being gone from it for so long, is the amount of real estate just installing and having the app takes up in my head. There’s now a part of my mind labeled TWITTER. It feels like a ball located to the back right of my mind. Feels like a little monkey sitting on my shoulder. Coaxing me into tweeting. Into thinking about what and when I will tweet. Rubbing his grubby little hands all over my thoughts and experiences, trying to get them into tweetable form. I suspect that I was once accustomed to this little monkey. I’m not accustomed to him anymore. I frankly do not care all that much for him. He’s fucking distracting. He’s a useless little fucker. The monkey is on notice. Grim little shit.

Yeah, I can relate. I’ve very deliberately not put the app on my phone. Tweetdeck is back as a Chromium app on my laptop, but the frequency of the temptation to either a) rubberneck at whatever the car-crash cruelty-of-the-moment might be, or b) to pronounce some seemingly profound witticism already has me thinking that I might set up some sort of time-bounded blockage of the site using a combination of cron and iptables; I’ve told myself that I’m back in the bearpit for professional reasons (which is the truth, though surely not the whole truth—this year has been lonely as hell for a number of reasons, and it’s nice to be in touch again with friends who simply aren’t easily accessible by other means), but if it’s going to be a useful tool rather than a destructive distraction, then some sort of formalised protocol or discipline of usage will be necessary.

(On a related note, while I’m very pleased with the huge improvements to both my work and personal life achieved through various forms of ritual and routine ((the pages being the foremost, but far from the only manifestation thereof)), it feels like I’ve hit a limit on that overarching strategy, which might best be seen as something like the canalisation of a very temperamental river for the purposes of maintaining a regular freight schedule. But the seasonality of the river remains… and a combination of reading around, observation and talking to people suggests that said fluxion is unusually severe in my case, and furthermore that many of those who experience a similar severity have been identified as having ADHD. My long-term reluctance to engage with systems of formal pathology diagnosis notwithstanding, I’m now wondering if I should talk to a doctor about that.)

elements of that necessary magic

Well, I sure as shit picked a great week to start using the birdsite again, didn’t I?

I don’t have much to say about it all, really—which isn’t to say I don’t have opinions about it, mind you, but I think the having of opinions is best left to those most directly affected, at least for now. (As a British rat who only recently scrambled off his own sinking ship, I’m in no position to give advice or laugh from the sidelines, either.) But I will reiterate the fairly common consensus that, far from being some shocking breach of USian norms that came out of nowhere, this was being signalled clear as day for months, if not years, and represents exactly the norms of a country that’s done a heckuva job of draping flags over falsehoods from day one*. It’s the naked lunch: suddenly everyone can see what’s on the end of the fork.

But the long game, beyond the borders of that souffle empire, and beyond the foreshortened temporalities of the current crisis, waits for no players. Adrian Ivakhiv knows the score, and also picked the most succinct possible title for his own post:

… the fate of the world rests between contending uses of the same tools employed by those conjurors — the tools of media, imagination, narrative, and passion, as well as reason. If some are using these tools to conjure illusions, the “magic” they are practicing — a magic of fears, lies and half-truths, and outworn but (to many) comforting myths (like QAnon’s “Storm” and the return to the Confederate States of America, depicted above in yesterday’s events) — must be counteracted by another magic, one that conveys the hope, the joy, and the real possibility of building a world of respect, dignity, beauty, social justice, and ecological flourishing.

The latter magic is more challenging to produce. It is also challenging to the halls of power, such as those represented by the U. S. Capitol, and I harbor no illusions that that building will ever be the epicenter of the great changes we need. But the elements of that necessary magic can be found all over the world, and it inspires my continued work.

I’m currently working on—or trying to work on—some of the framing arguments for my current project, which involves me making the case for the co-production of relateable and concrete climate futures with ordinary people. In that framing I am, as I have done for many years, positioning it as a question of a battle of narratives, but it might just as well be thought of as magic—and it’s a comfort to know that there are others out there looking at it the same way, and working up their own spells and cantrips. As Ivakhiv points out, dark magic is easy; fear is a highly combustible fuel, and there’s a lot of it about. Hope is scarcer—but, just like fear, it can be generated, distilled, shared, and used as as a medium for a magic with a different purpose, to make a light against the encroaching darkness.

Mystical hippie bullshit, Paul? Well, maybe. But if you still think that good old-fashioned Enlightenment rationality and liberal norms are all we need to get us out of the downward spiral, then I suggest you revisit the footage from Washington DC last night, and think again. That story had a good run, but its narrators lost control of it. Unless we replace it with something better… well, we’ve now had a pretty clear foreshadowing of how the movie ends.