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The Lotus Eaters

Monday, February 6th, 2012 | Posted by Federico Campagna

“I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eaters, who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among the Lotus-Eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eaters without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their oars.”
Odyssey, IX

 

The sun stops half way through its descent towards the abyss. He wonders where it will go, as he moves his eyes away from the dark horizon. Beyond it, somewhere in the night, his comrades are still rowing through the uncharted sea. By now, if everything had gone according to plan, they should have approached the island… The island… Which island? It was home, long ago, but now he can’t even remember its name. Doulos slips a finger between his belt and the cloth he has around his waist. Carefully, he extracts one soft, fleshy petal. He puts it on his lower lip, and with his tongue he moves it inside his mouth, feeling its smooth surface turning thicker, then slowly dissolving. When he first tried the flowers, the overwhelming sweetness coated his tongue, and it was only out of courtesy for his kind hosts that he had kept on chewing. But now, so many flowers later, now that nothing distinguishes him form his hosts, now… Now… Oh, it’s gone. That thought is gone. No point in chasing it. And his comrades, yes. His comrades at home, wherever it is. But they are not at home, he knows it. Without proof, he knows it for sure.

It was that guy, their master. The man of many ways and no regrets. Like they turned the oars in their hands, he turned their lives in his. And enchanted them, even more than the penetrating juices of the petals of lotus. And now that the sun has started again its descent, in the coming darkness Doulos can see their mouths wide open, as the jaws of the unforgiving sea close on them. The monsters, on the shores, in the caves under water, and in the sky above the waves, they were nothing compared to him. The man who deceived Troy, the trickster who didn’t have to threaten his comrades to obey him, as they did so out of their misplaced love. Him… The king… Doulos squints in the agony of the day, and slowly walks back through the shrubbery. The rising wind swirls the sand around his worn-out sandals. In the distance, behind the olive trees, the lights of the village shine along a wide stretch of land. A few lazy crickets greet his stumbling steps toward his hut. A dog is sleeping in front of his door. Doulos kneels down in front of him and gently caresses his head. The dog growls sleepily, raises his head, licks Doulos’s fingers, sweetened by the lotus.

Behind his hut, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks cut the wind with their edges. He had hidden there, the day his comrades had come back to look for him. The villagers were still gathered around the fire, methodically chewing on their flowers, looking unimpressed at the foreigners’ frenzy. His comrades had searched the village, running from one hut to the other, shouting his name. The two who had accompanied him in the exploration tried to escape and were dragged back to the ships, in tears. Doulos was hiding behind the rocks, still short of breath. He could see the scene, from that distance, as one looks back at a fading dream just after awakening. He remained in hiding, almost motionless, throughout the night, until, at dawn, the new winds filled the sails and the wooden shells of the Greeks started moving away from the shore. As the ships moved further, Doulos tightened his grip on the rocks. That would have been the last time he would have seen his comrades, heard their voices, the sound of his native tongue… At last, as a final farewell, he heard Ulysses shouting, ‘Doulos, you traitor, you’ll be forgotten!’

Doulos stands up, walks towards the door, opens it. A woman is lying on a rug, chewing her portion of petals. She smiles at him, invites him to lie next to her. Doulos takes off his sandals, dusts off the sand on his feet. He goes to the table and pours two cups of water. He sits at her side, and passes her a cup. She ruffles his hair, gives him a petal. As the juice of the lotus envelops his mouth and teeth, memories get lighter. The dog comes in, and licks the water left in his cup. He looks at him wondering around he room, approaching the door and finally lying in front of it. Doulos reaches for another petal and slips it in his mouth. The woman, next to him, stretches her arm and takes his hand, rubs her fingers on his scars, on the long white marks that made him a soldier, on the hard layers of skin that made him a oarsman, on the painful joints that made him a subject of his master.

Doulos closes his eyes, and the sound of another dog, from another hut, faintly reaches him. There, someone else is reversed on the floor, near another half empty cup of water, far away from any memories. Oblivion. Even remembering oblivion is hard, once the lotus has enveloped you. The land around them, with its sand, the present darkness, the coming light, and darkness again, the distant ships, the wind singing through the rocks, the trees… Like fallen trees they all lie, protected from the sufferings of the world. Like corpses they live, so remote from life they could live forever. And forever forget, about the cares of the sailors, the soldiers, the kings and their ambitions, and their flocks of servants, reversed in the sand, lifeless, at the end of the battles, as the smoke of the sacrifices feeds the gods.

Years before, on the shores of Troy, memories of long-past wrongs possessed bodies much younger than the offenses they had been called to vindicate, and through their veins turned into the terrifying power of armed fists. The smile of the swords, at dawn, as the battlefield presented itself as the last day of the many, the memorable eve of the few. And the unbearable weight of the helmets, as burning as the sun, melting away the remnants of the fallen and the minds of the living. Once the dry plains in front of the burned gates of the city had drank more lives than they could stomach, the spectre of other plains, and other lands, came back to haunt the survivors. Home, as a curse. As a destiny, once again, calling them all to take up the challenge of death. And then, had they passed the swirls hidden between the waves, back again to the chains they used to call their own. The kings, always magnificent, raised they voices over the rowing crews. Home! they ordered. Triumphant commanders, on the deck of their ships, they showed no hesitation in taking the sea again, towards the beds in which their queens laid still, chained to their memory.

Sinking deep towards the boundless realm of the gods, the arrogance of those entitled to glory, the crowned few, pushed the ships away from the shore, back to the native fields and prisons. For Doulos, towards the mountainous pastures of Ithaca, where sheep and shepherds share the same thirst. Swapping the armor for the wooden stick, the sword for the whistle, the obedience in the face of death for that of an entire life. Back, back again. Like a winter that follows an unforgiving summer. Between the sea and the shore, craving a corner to sleep on the crowded deck, on the fields of sheep and tributes, hiding from the wrath of the gods as from that of the king, his face in the sand, his hands, older by the day, gripping on the same myths. Lost in an oblivion in which he only would have remained awake to himself, to his forgettableness.

Until, they took shelter in the land of the lotus eaters, after many days of tempest. The woman starts singing softly, in a language he still does not understand. But is there anyone who understand it? People don’t speak, in the land of oblivion, as they don’t remember their own names, and their debts fade into nothing, as the dogs that move from hut to hut, without fidelity. Is this his woman? He cannot say, and in her dark hair there is no place for the mark of anything but of his fingers, caressing her, rhythmically moving along the riffs of her skull. Is this life at all? He places another petal between his lips and presses in with his teeth. The juice trickles, underneath his tongue, between the molars. Memories get lighter. But he has already thought that. But it doesn’t matter. Thoughts die and are reborn, in a swirl of seasons passing so rapidly, as if the countless days that make the world were comprised in those very moments. And then they die, each and every instant, leaving him motionless, perfectly clear, polished like the bark of an old tree. And behind him, beyond the lemon grove, and the stream, and the patches of maritime pines, a pile of enormous rocks are still cutting the wind with their edges. He has been there, one day, many years ago. He had gone there to look at the sky, and the sea, and had fallen asleep. And he had a dream, and had awakened. And again.
And again.
And again.
Until all the seasons would have run out.

The mystery of advertising and the city of the future

Friday, December 9th, 2011 | Posted by Federico Campagna

Preamble: the flood

As we witness the fireworks of global finance exploding in the sky, together with the narratives and hopes of the last three decades, we might be missing the silent activity that swarms around our feet. On the muddy ground of today’s semiotic life, the sudden lack of our attention to the moves of semiocapitalism has not led to any slowing of its processes of transformation of our internal and external environments. Language, affects, emotions, attention and meaning continue to be subsumed by the production system, maybe now more than ever. They are extracted from us in rivers, they are conveyed into the catching areas of Capital, and then stored within the mighty dam of Marketing. There, they are supposed to work by inertia, pushing the engines of economic production with their sheer weight. It used to be called the advertising circle, then it became the totality of semiocapitalism.

In particular, people seem to be relieved by relinquishing ownership on functions of production and management of abstractions. They have been encouraged to do so for decades, endlessly urged by marketing to get rid of their heavy burden of immateriality and to give it to the experts. The experts, however, have promised more that they can deliver. The level of the flow keeps increasing, much faster than the construction of the dam that contains it. As more and more semiotic functions are handed over by individuals to the marketeers, their sheer amount is ultimately overwhelming them, escaping the rigid grids that had been built for their containment, overflowing, becoming floods. As it is in the nature of floods, they change the tamed, useful nature of water-for-consumption into the unusable, and potentially threatening qualities of water-in-itself.

And yet, from the devastating indifference of floods, many a civilization has risen.

 

From description to incarnation

The ultimate scope of marketing is increasing the sales figures of a certain product, a line of products, a brand or a network of brands. This scope can be reached through a myriad of paths and techniques, following short-term and/or long-term strategies. One of the main marketing strategies is promotion, that is, the provision of information about a product /brand(truthful or not, actual or virtual, it does not matter) to the potential customers. Promotion reaches its pinnacle in the use of the techniques of advertising.

In the second half of the 19th century, advertising started as the mere description of the qualities and properties of the objects for sale. Ads merely described the qualities of the products, possibly presented in emphatic terms. Around the second decade of the 20th century, and especially with the first encounters of art and advertising (as it happened with Futurism), advertising started developing the semiotic aspect of promotion. As it became even clearer at the end of the 1950s, advertising focused more and more on the semiotization of the products, through the insertion of values (that is, of the representation of abstract ideas) into them. The product became the symbol of a certain idea, that is, it acquired semiotic value. Through use, the purchaser could interact with the abstractions represented by the product, and appropriate them for him/herself. For example, if a bottle of shower gel represented ‘cleanliness’, the interaction of the individual with that product would lead him/her to appropriating the noun ‘cleanliness’ through its transformation into the adjective ‘clean’. Through use, the ideas represented by the product would transfer to the user and, in doing so, the user would transform objective values (nouns, represented by the products) into subjective attributes (adjectives, acquired by the individual)

In the 1990s, marketing paired advertising with experiential techniques. The interaction between individual and product changed. The appropriation of the ideas represented by the object would no longer happen through simple use, but had to unfold according to the rules of an experience. As defined by marketing, an experience is a ritual set of strictly normed actions, which ultimately leads to the magic appropriation by the individual (or individuals, in the case of collective rituals) of the ideas represented by an object. Differently from use, experience expands its normativity beyond the simple interaction between user and object, going to cover the setting of the surrounding environment, the relationship between the user and other users, the relationship between that specific experience and other specific experiences, and so on.

During the early 2000s, another transformation took place. It was as if advertisers had decided to react to the increasing prestige of experience-managers, by giving new legitimacy to their dying art. In their presentation of the product, advertisers transformed the values contained within it into functions. As opposed to a value, which is the representation of an abstract idea, a function is the process of performance of that idea. A function is the endless process of transformation of the noun into the adjective. In the past, such functions were performed by individuals through use of the products, while, in this new presentation, products already perform the use process within themselves, that is, they already, by themselves, digest the ideas they once used to merely represent and provide their buyer with ready-made subjective attributes which s/he can appropriate as his/her own. If, in the 1960s, a shower gel contained ‘cleanliness’ and, though use, made the individual ‘clean, the same shower gel in the 2000s would already be ‘clean’ in itself, and would pass this ready made adjective to its user. It is worthy noticing that, because of their internalized functions, the 1960s users created each one for him/herself his/her specific way of being clean, while the 2000s users would all participate equally to the same ‘clean’ attribute, as pre-constructed by the product.

Of course, this appropriation still has to unfold according to the rules of a ritual experience, rather than those of simple use. Only the precise obedience to the rules of the ritual makes it possible for the user to appropriate the output of the function constantly in progress within the object. For example, although a pair of nike trainers already perform, within themselves, the function of transformation of the noun ‘sportiness’ into the adjective ‘sporty’, through their correct experiential use the purchaser is still able to appropriate the attribute ‘sporty’ as his/her own.

During the last few years, this evolution has gone even further.
On the one hand, individuals have ultimately accepted to relinquish their ownership of virtually all functions of production and digestion of abstract ideas and to give them to the marketing departments. In doing so, individuals have de facto externalized such functions into products, through the mediation of marketing (more exactly, of semio-marketing such as branding and advertising). It is no longer individuals, but objects, who deal with the abstract world of ideas and bring them to Earth.
On the other hand, the permanent exposition of products and brands to the universe of abstraction has transformed them from hosts of the representation of ideas, into incarnations of those ideas. Products and brands now incarnate the abstractions they once used merely to represent. They have evolved even beyond being transformative machines, which digest ideas. Ideas have eventually ‘possessed’ the objects, turning them into their earthly incarnation.

At the same time, the path of experience seems to have ultimately dried up. The interaction between individual and object no longer consents any appropriation by the individual of the ideas contained in the object, nor of their adjective, digested version. The almost perfect coincidence between ideas and objects has closed any possible opening to the insertion of humans within their relationship. The functional cycle happening within the object has finally closed, leaving outside the humans. The object takes the noun of the idea, transforms it into an adjective and finally appropriates this adjective, thus incarnating the idea and simultaneously making itself a subject. For humans, there is nothing left to do but to witness the miracle.

 

Smirnoff

Let’s take, as an example, a 2008 advert for Smirnoff Vodka. From the bottom of the ocean, with great profusion of CGI, all sorts of objects start to emerge and to fly out of the water. Cans, tins, cars, crashed airplanes, shipwrecked vessels, ruins of submerged civilizations… What’s going on? The camera swiftly moves inside the water, until it reaches the bottom. There, lying on the sand, we find a bottle of Smirnoff. ‘Ten times filtered’ – we read – ‘Extraordinary purification.’

Smirnoff is not just pure. Smirnoff is purity. If you place it on the bottom of the ocean, it cleans up the whole mess down there. If you place it in your house, you have a fragment of purity glowing on your shelf. That’s why you must buy it. But if you drink it… Ah! If you open it…. The magic goes. Purity disappears. You are left with some very common vodka, which is not even that good (incidentally, good quality vodkas need to be filtered only once, while poor quality vodka has to be filtered repeatedly). Why does the magic (and the ideas) disappear the moment the individual interacts with the object?

If we are to attempt to answer this question, we must borrow from religious categories. The ‘incarnation’ which happens in the product has to be taken literally. Smirnoff incarnates purity, like Jesus incarnated God. This means, first of all, that while Smirnoff is purity, purity is not Smirnoff. Smirnoff is ‘the chosen one’ for the incarnation of purity, but it is ultimately replaceable. No inner, specific qualities of Smirnoff make it the best candidate for this task. Similarly, God’s decision to choose Jesus of Nazareth and to make him Christ – him, among all his brothers and sisters – was completely arbitrary. However, once chosen, the object of incarnation ceases to be merely the host of a value and becomes one thing with the idea.

By definition, the contact of the believer with the mystery of incarnation always happens on a non-equal level. Even when conveyed through the magical means of the communion, the immaterial transference between incarnation and simple individual always encounters failure. In the mouth of the believer, the body of Christ necessarily turns into some simple, tasteless wafer. Of course, this impossibility is not to be blamed on the side of the perfect mystery, rather on that of the imperfect believer. It is the inadequacy of the believer, his/her innate shortcoming, his/her natural inability to host the Spirit, which is the reason for such failure. No wonder, then, that the newly evolved world of advertising induces anxious and depressive responses from the consumers. Like the Jewish

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and Christian religions, advertising also relies on the idea of original sin, and functions on the perennial begging for forgiveness by the believer. The main difference being, on the one hand, that the god of advertising is neither merciful nor a god of love, and, on the other, that this vengeful god keeps changing the complex rituals which promise (but never deliver) a temporary truce with its believers.

 

Testimonials of ideology

What can we call those products which no longer represent, but incarnate ideas? Certainly, we can no longer call them commodities. The paradoxes of the mystery of incarnation have turned their use value to nothing, while they have also made impossible the comparison between commodities, which is at the basis of the definition of exchange value. Also, their given market price can no longer be explained as the congealed amount of labour contained within it, as the process of semiotization escapes the normal accountancy of work-hours. Such products resemble virtual currency within the financial system, that is pure and abstract clusters of values. But they are useless currency, since their owners cannot interact with them on any other level but that of possession. For this reason, we can probably define these products as pure reserves of value, as exemplary and pure stockpiling. These products embody that same process of rapture of earthly functions into super-human abstraction which is typical of ideologies. However, these are particular types of ideologies.

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While typical ideologies, such as those who had such great success during the 20th century, still required the active intervention of humans in order to take place outside of the realm of ideas, these new ideological constructs require less and less human participation. They simply require the proclamation of faith which is implicit in the act of purchase by the consumer of the incarnated object, and his/her subsequent guarding of the sacred object through a possession which never involves use. Buyers of such products no longer are users, but witnesses. They behold the fragments of ideas that they have purchased and they witness their perfect functioning outside of any possible human intervention.

There is only one category of individuals who can still claim the possibility of interacting with incarnated products. While they are still technically humans, they really are not. They are testimonials in advertising. They are often chosen among celebrities, but can also be random, beautiful people who were raptured into the world of direct relationship with the idea. Their relationship with incarnated products is of the object-to-object type – which is the reason why it can still function. When a testimonial interacts with an incarnated product on a TV screen or on a billboard, the transference of values actually happens. When the testimonial of l’Oreal uses l’Oreal’s shampoo, s/he actually becomes more beautiful, s/he actually ‘is worth it’ – as the slogan goes. When a testimonial eats organic food, it actually makes him/her healthy. While, for a non-raptured consumer, organic food functions (that is, performs the ‘health’ function) only as long as it is kept locked inside the refrigerated safety box in the kitchen.

It is as if the church of consumerism had turned from the catholic spectacle of opulence and participation, into a (modified version of) the orthodox mystery. In Greek orthodox churches, priests perform most of their actions behind a wall, which separates them from the community of the believers. Testimonials, like orthodox priests, enter in contact with the mystery of incarnation in a place that is separate from the crowd attending the mass, to whom they turn their back. However, in the church of consumerism, someone has placed a mirror in that separate room, and the believers can still see the reflection of the priests participating in the mystery. This mirror is capitalism, that is, of possession through purchase, which is the last possible way of witnessing the mystery.

 

The city of the future

Which position are we to take in the face of these transformations?
I believe that we should welcome the complete closure of the circle of meaning produced by advertising with joyful hearts. By incarnating ideas into objects, late capitalism has given us a parting gift before its coming demise. Once dangerously floating above our heads under the name of ideologies, abstract constructions of absolute values are now trapped within inanimate objects. Capitalism has performed a voodoo trick, for which we should be grateful.

If Smirnoff wants to have the monopoly on the idea of purity, it is most welcome to do so. Actually, we should help it to do it even more. Artists should team up with advertisers, pushing the boundaries of incarnation even further, closing the circle of perfection. So that abstraction might never escape again, and never again swarm above us like a murder of crows. We have battled for centuries against the dangerous power of ideas, and we might finally be reaching victory thanks to the unwitting help of semiocapitalism.

This does not mean that we will ever be able to do without abstraction. The tendency to create absolute, idea values is part of human nature, and a part of us is and always will be longing for the presence of abstraction and ideology within our lives. However, if up until now the ideologies of modernity necessitated our active intervention and sacrifice in order to exist among us, we can now be satisfied by witnessing their presences, trapped within fully semiotized, incarnated products.

We should let the discourse started by the latest form of advertising develop to its ultimate consequences.

Little by little, incarnated objects will take over our living spaces. Like the house of the neurotic, which is immaculate and perfect in order to perform the function ‘calm’ on behalf of its incapacitated owner, our cities will progressively take over all the abstract functions that we always struggled to perform. And like the neurotic, we will slowly realize that if we want our houses to perform those functions, we will eventually have to move out. And we will move out of our houses, out of our cities. The perfect city of the future will be the complete pantheon of absolute abstractions incarnated into objects, devoid of any human eyes. We will enter them in silence, to dust the objects and the glass walls of the skyscrapers. We will have to make sure that everything remains in there as we left it, that nothing ever breaks. And, once a day, we will have to watch the ads for the products trapped in there, which we will no longer need to buy, just to remember that they have taken upon themselves the plague of ideology for our salvation. Then we will go back to our new homes, outside of the perfect city of abstraction, where our worst desires will remain safely locked. And we will be free, forever. Free from Humanity, from Purity, from Beauty, from Health. Free to be human, to be pure, to be beautiful, to be healthy.

This text derives from a conversation with Robert Prouse

A modest proposal for wiping out isolated tribes

Sunday, October 16th, 2011 | Posted by Federico Campagna

I know there is one where women rule. Perfect matriarchy, with women sleeping with everyone and men looking after children. It is in some jungle in Africa, or maybe in South America. I heard there is another one where everyone shares everything, in some sort of perfect communism without bureaucracy or secret police. And there must be another one where people with mental or physical disabilities are treated like gods. Not sure where that one is, or how many people are there. Anyway, all of them, all these isolated tribes lost in jungles, I am sure, live in perfect harmony with nature, their spiritual selves, each other, the universe, animals, women, wealth…

On this side of the planet, where isolation is just an urban disease, newspapers and magazines pullulate with stories of isolated tribes. Nobody can resist the beautiful melancholy of pictures of naked man in the wilderness, threatened by deforestation and by the advance of civilization. Nobody, not even charities or governments. With unanimous emotion, western civil societies do not save on tears and petitions to save the last few members of these mythical, uncontaminated tribes.

It was not with a cynical prejudice, but rather with mere curiosity, that I started asking myself what was the reason behind this interest, which seems to me (at least numerically) disproportionate to that granted to the huge masses of the local dispossessed in the ‘non-isolated’ world. If not a measured calculation of the ‘greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people’, to quote Bentham, then, what other reasoning is there behind such an obsession with saving isolated tribes from destruction and from us?

Like in detective stories, we must return to the crime scene to understand who killed whom, and why. This is a very strange case of murder, though. One where the investigation aims at uncovering what reasons the murder had for trying so hard not to kill his victims, but actually to keep them alive as long as possible. There is something morbid in this paradoxical attempt. And morbidity itself is the clue that might lead us to the real crime scene, miles and miles away from jungles and deserts. In fact, in a completely different universe.

Following the path of the morbid desires of western societies, we will soon find ourselves in the middle of a dangerous place, crowded with all sorts of impulses and desires, which we might call the collective mind. Although it is difficult to move through this cloudy landscape, it will not be too hard to find the responsible of this collective obsession. After all, its size is notoriously huge and its name is known to most: frustration. Like most criminals, it often uses other names as well: impotence, excuse, procrastination.

What has this collective feeling of justification and frustration to do with the interest in protecting isolated tribes? It might help to have a look at the way another detective, before us, named some of its victims, those which Lacan called ‘the subjects supposed to believe’. According to Lacan, it is common practice to attribute to others certain beliefs which we do not want to fully take upon us, and yet which we do not want to fully give up either. Think of Santa Claus and the way children are supposed to believe in it. Or, to get to the point, think of our isolated tribes and the extraordinary qualities they are supposed to have.

Common sense states that there is no such thing as selflessness. This all-encompassing selfishness, though, should also include that of the masochistic type. What is the role, or better the use, for western civil societies of these uncontaminated jungle dwellers? How is this masochistic for us? In our search for answers, we can start interrogating our main suspect, that morbid feeling of the collective mind. What is it trying to hide? By its nature, frustration (aka impotence, excuse, procrastination) is an internalized self-justification of the inability – or of the lack of will – to perform certain actions and achieve certain results. Frustration is the declaration of a defeat, the transformation of a temporary failure into a permanent condition of existence. If we put it in front of the pure-hearted natives ‘supposed to believe’, we can have a glimpse of what is the motif behind this obsessive, murderous care: hiding a defeat.

However, even if we now know that it was defeat that commissioned the murder, we still haven’t found who was the real victim of this homicide. Because this is indeed a strange case, one where we have, on the one hand, a victim forced to survive, and yet, on the other, we have another one forced to die. Defeat is a serial killer, and its targets are always the same: any imaginable possibility. Keeping alive those isolated tribes, defeat secures its paralyzing domination over the collective mind through the perfect balance of frustration and sublimation. Who needs to panic about our lack of harmony with nature, women, wealth or each other, if there is someone, somewhere in the jungle, who is doing it so well for us? The world would be a very dark, hopeless place, if it wasn’t for those beautiful, uncontaminated people who are living the dream. Our dream. It is thanks to them that we can sleepwalk through our days as if it didn’t really matter, as if our constant inability to concretize possibilities wasn’t a murder of our own nature, but just a slightly disturbing procrastination.

Samurai, in Medieval Japan, used to live according to a strict discipline, the first principle of which was that of waking up every day as if already dead. For the dead there is no hope, therefore there is no fear. But getting rid of hope doesn’t only mean doing without fear. Most importantly, it means to be forced to face the urgency of what does not exist. In a world without hope, what does not exist will never appear, unless it is purposefully brought into life. Such a realization infallibly leads to panic. However, despite its frequent interpretation as a state of paralysis, panic, if brought to its highest peak of existential anxiety, can have the effect of an incredible stimulus. In the pinnacle of panic, action, however impossible, becomes necessary. In other words, put in front of the realization that alternative lifestyles and alternative political systems are not in place at the moment, that there are no isolated tribes performing for us all those ideal practices that we are endlessly procrastinating, we will not have any other option but to realize them ourselves. Unless we decide to keep living in an abyss of complete existential desperation.

It is a choice that we must make. Either to keep dreaming or to awake to darkness. It is a choice that requires a sacrifice. That of our innermost oases of hope. We should be grateful that such oases also exist in the physical world. They are in the heart and in the soul of those wonderful, mythical, uncontaminated tribes. Let’s sing with joy at the advance of bulldozers through the virgin rain forests, at the spreading of fires in the deepest areas of the jungle. Let’s hold together the rifles of death squads, as they are hunting down natives along tropical rivers. Killing isolated tribes will kill our dreams. Destroying them will destroy our hope. As the Amazon forest will choke to death under tons of concrete, it will be the very possibility of other, greater wildernesses that will be reborn. As the last, pure hearted native will bleed dry, it will be our very blood that will start to flow again.