Shaktichakra, the wheel of energies

Culture and systems of knowledge, cultivation and food, population and consumption

The well-tempered egg

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I first ran into Darren Allen when I read ’33 Myths of the System’, which may have been his first book (he now has seven). At any rate if he’d written one earlier, I never got to it because his 33 myths were very compelling indeed. Who is Allen? He is a writer of radical philosophy and his works, in his own words, have been “widely read, deeply loved and viscerally detested, and it has been generously endorsed by some of our culture’s greatest trouble-makers”.

Since I am well on the way to being a culture trouble-maker of significance, it may be that Allen will also include me as one of his (more curmudgeonly) endorsers. He does provide a qualification, somewhere on his website, Expressive Egg, which goes like this: “I don’t reject everything within the history of civilisation, which would be silly, but I do believe that, ten thousand years ago, man (and I do mean man) made a catastrophic wrong turn into self.”

What I found immediately familiar about many of the myths in Allen’s 33 myths is the truth – usually ugly and usually manipulative – that lies just under the surface of each, easily within reach for anyone, except that anyone is just too lazy, and too used to being trained to be lazy, to scratch that surface.

In ’33 Myths’ – which I suggest the reader should begin with in his exploration of Allen’s works – he “confronts the fabrications of both capitalism and socialism, both left and right, both theism and atheism”. But it is not only about revealing the falsity of opposites. The myths are also an aide to “perceive and understand the unhappy supermind that directs, penetrates and even lives our lives”.

A subsequent work, entitled ‘Ad Radicem’ (which means, to the root), has essays on Marx, feminism, the ‘pandemic’, mental illness and superstition. Where did all this come from? I suppose from wherever the fates catapulted him to: Allen has worked “in Russian cement factories, Spanish anarchist squats, Japanese high schools, Qatari military schools, Sudanese oil companies and Saudi shit-holes”. Well, no shortage of direct material then with which to comment on the absurdities of the world.

It was Allen’s ‘Myth of Education’ that struck a chord. I have disliked intensely the cruel charade that is called school, the harsh indoctrination gaol that is called university. Here’s a passage:

“The purpose of education is to squash initiative, self-sufficiency and self-trust. The superficial means by which this is effected is through punishing any serious attempt to cross disciplines or to reject the syllabus which, by virtue of the fact that all socio-economic activity depends on the values and credentials it produces, makes all learning outside of its confines worse than useless; craft, self-knowledge, social responsibility and general non-credentialised competence, all become non-pedagogic in an intensely schooled system, and the entire world beyond the curriculum becomes non-educational, not to mention unreal.”

And likewise, culture, with which I have been absorbed and have had to do with for a good many years, formally and informally. Its shibboleths have been welded together out of wrought iron, so rigid and indestructible they appear. But for those who stand freely outside the lurid Disneyworld that is the putrescent landscape of ‘culture’, the disease is all too visible. Herewith Allen:

“Those who would create the art we need are isolated from the harmony of lived nature and genuine culture, and can no longer detect its presence. Cultural ugliness and aesthetic squalor colonise the earth and come to seem normal, until the building of a great work of art comes to be as difficult, and as unlikely, as the building of a cathedral, while those who look back with longing at the cathedrals we once built appear hopelessly out-of-date.”

His very latest effort at describing, in a radical sort of way, a world out of joint, is titled ‘Fired’. Allen describes the book as “a heroic journey of unself-discovery, a forgiving study of contemporary minds at the end of their tether” and, what I find most charming, “in the tradition of English losers gloriously, pointlessly and pathetically fighting a battle they cannot win”. Ah yes, but the most merit lies in fighting, not in the winning, for it is the winners who are most apt to be captured by those who run this very disjointed world.


Written by makanaka

December 28, 2022 at 21:48

Posted in culture

Tagged with , , ,

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