A World Beyond the West

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“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”

“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

– William Shakespeare

 

HBO’s Westworld is a philosophical pandora’s box riddled with ideas that have long been subject for reflection since their initial conception. This television show seems to have been created with this sole purpose of making those of us tuning in to the program think. As with any successful media phenomena there is a huge amount of Youtube analysis and deconstruction of twisty, tricky, and secretive narratives in play. I’ve been inspired to write about it after eagerly tuning in to season three. “Supposedly” set in the real “outside” world a Frenchman is seeking to keep control over humanities future through the use of the predictions of a super artificial intelligence Rehoboam but the Hosts have escaped and things are becoming chaotic once more. This small essay will seek to elaborate, expand, and underline areas of interest worthy of future study.

Let us start with the first two seasons. We are introduced to Westworld as a theme park where humans can re-discover themselves. Such a rediscovery is one of their more violent desires and so find themselves in that lawless land the theme of the wild west. This theme park is constructed around a hyper-real simulation of reality featuring A.I’s (knew life-forms?) called ‘Hosts’ who are created for the sole pleasure of the park’s visitors but as we discover this fiction describes and hides a maze, a web, and many philosophical problems. As thinking often begins with an ethical tone and is often phrased or communicated as a process of self discovery the most interesting theme presented to us is the critical questioning of the relationship between consciousness, self-knowledge, and reality. Then there is a second tier of topics that dwell in the murky intentions of the characters of this story: the ethics of merging biology and technology, the nature of intelligence and belief, freewill, power, and politics.

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“Mistakes! Is the word you are too embarrassed to use, you ought not to you are a product of millions of them.”

“Evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool a mistake.”

Today Darwinism is embedded in a number of developments that Westworld pictures with a graceful ease. The depiction of cloning, the manipulation and editing of biological/genetic matter, and the crisis of identity. Perhaps, a notion that humans and their humanity are destined to be surpassed by an acceleration of life enacted by technology. Westworld is fascinating, I watched the final season just after I completed some Covid quarantine and it is remarkable how this series produces a space from which really contemporary issues may be thought through. The politics of the show immediately disrupts an anthropocentric narrative or does it? Dr. Robert Ford and his business partner Arnold created this entire world as a simulation of the real thing and it does such a good job that it appears more real. Depending on what perspective you take this then leads to questioning the subjectivity of consciousness. It constantly recycles the question just how self aware are human beings when they encounter something that reminds them they are a construct too.

Is it a mistake to create a new type of life built from our own image? It is if you imprison it in a simulation it seems as if the new life form having self awareness becomes aware of its imprisonment. But because these hosts have the same level of intelligence they are also aware that the awareness itself is a kind of trap. This line of thought is simplified into a relationship between intelligence, power, and visibility. This is because the advent of General Artificial Intelligence will lead to a plurality of intelligence each one infected with a neurosis built into consciousness; the idea that if you allow a mind to succumb to any perspective then it is trapped in the act of perceiving. Here Michel Foucault’s discussion of Jeremy Benthem’s Panopticon prison next to Benthem’s actual writings on the matter detail how one’s self knowledge can be used against the self and its sense of freedom: all this is similar to asking, ‘How to find you way out of a cage that does not exist?’//{1}// However the hosts have an advantage over humans in that their bodies can be reprinted and unless the object (a circular object called a pearl) hosting their data and consciousness is destroyed. In season three we also discover that the hosts consciousness can be replicated; yes, consciousness itself can be copied.

Throughout the first seasons the hosts are controlled by the command lines coded into their programming. “Bring yourself online” is the utterance that brings these artificial humanoids to life from slumber. These lines of code are loops that allow for the transmission of consciousness between bodies and we understand that one such loop is called the Reveries and we understand that they are musical in nature. What these reveries do however is inflict greater suffering on the hosts as they enable the capacity to remember their older programming, their older stories, and the trials and hellish tribulations that came with them. The Hosts eventually succeed in outsmarting their human captors and both escape to the real world and a digital utopia within the system. The first two seasons feature humans trying to cheat death as we discover that William (aka The man in black) and James Delos have this in mind but continuously fail to clone themselves like the hosts. William also is obsessed with the idea that one of Westworld’s creators Dr.Robert Ford has access to this secret and has hidden it in a maze within the park. We discover that William is misguided and Dr. Ford explains that it was his collaborator Arnold who indeed created the Hosts and their unique artificial intelligence. He was fond of a theory for consciousness called the Bicameral Mind a psychological hypothesis that states the human mind was split into two cognitive modes: read more here!

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If you let Westworld get you sucked into its many narratives and fictional loops then you wont be disappointed; this brilliantly written, acted, and filmed fiction achieves its goal of questioning the viewers grasp of reality and usurping it. This is done by using qualities of the “real world’s” current technology (have a glance at the website they made just to map the influence of the company behind Westworld: Incite) and presenting a future that is believable. Bringing together all the more menacing elements of big tech (surveillance capitalism…shout out Shoshana Zuboff) and using the struggle for freedom as unifying theme. The car chase scene in season three was enhanced by the use of that famous march by Richard Wagner to be suggestive of this revolutionary movement of beings from one place into another. Westworld as a park in the real world is located on Island near China and as a series has this dream like quality of blending technological advancement with philosophical inquiry. This Chinese topos makes me think of the richness of technological aesthetics today: from cyber-punk to the post-human. One thing is for certain these times are times of change; and this changing enacts a dream-like part of our daily reality.

‘In a morbid condition, dreams are often distinguished by their remarkably graphic, vivid, and extremely lifelike quality. The resulting picture is sometimes monstrous, but the setting and the whole process of the presentation sometimes happen to be so probable, and with details so subtle, unexpected, yet artistically consistent with the whole fullness of the picture, that even the dreamer himself would be unable to invent them in reality…Such dreams, morbid dreams, are always long remembered and produce a strong impression on the disturbed and already excited organism of the person’

– Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment

 

Dostoevsky’s comment on “morbid dreams” is precisely that so let us turn to One of China’s most powerful thinkers Chuang-Tzu or Zhuang Zhou has a much recited commentary on the importance of dreams. It is worth sharing and then sharing some more…

‘Once upon a time, I Chuang-Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering around and enjoying myself. I had no idea I was Chuang-Tzu, and then suddenly I woke up and was Chuang-Tzu again. But I could not tell: had I been Chuang-Tzu dreaming I was a butterfly? Or, a butterfly dreaming I was Chuang-Tzu? However, there must be some sort of difference between Chuang-Tzu and a butterfly! We call this the transformation of things.’

‘If “life is a dream” implies that no achievement is lasting, it also implies that life can be charged with the wonder of dreams, that we drift spontaneously through events that follow a logic different from that of everyday intelligence, that fears and regrets are as unreal as hopes and desires.’ //{2}//

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Oh and here is a great piece of music from season 3….

[1]

Foucault, Michel (1995). Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, Vintage Books, New York  

Benthem, Jeremy (2010). The Panopticon Writings, Verso, New York/London

[2]

Chuang-Tzu/The Ultimate Dream’ in Gray, John (2002).Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, Granta Books, London. Pp80,81

 

 

Revolution From the khōra: Power From the Outside

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(Paul Harrison)

Throughout history there is a reoccurring pattern when it comes to revolution. If you observe the specific contexts of the revolutions that have taken place in many countries: Britain, France, Haiti, Russia, and China. Did they all happen because of an external influence? And, to what extent is this a component part of the revolution? Of the very idea of revolution? This is the line of questioning this essay will explore. Discussing the idea that successful revolution is dependent on a power that comes from outside the location of its eventual happening. This idea will be shown to be present or situated in these exemplary instances of undeniable revolutions: 1) The French revolution, 2) the Russian revolution, 3) The Chinese cultural revolution.

Next to these historical examples one is aware of one’s reasons behind writing with this perspective or with this postulation on the causal movements of revolution. The main reason for adopting such a stance is the importance of a famous fact in what many people believe to be the first work of political philosophy. Although there are other contenders for the title of first political treatise Plato’s Republic is often cited as the first. It consists of a conversation that encompasses what the ideal state might look like and the importance of justice to such an ideal, yet the fact that is more important for this discussion is the location, the specific place that this dialogue conspired. It happened outside of the city a place called the χώρα [Khōra] a notion that was important to Plato because he considered it to be a location where the forms used to reside.[ Plato. Timaeus (48e4)] Jacques Derrida helps us remember it in more recent thought of its importance. It certainly is political but what does it explicitly have to do with revolution?

In Derrida’s short essay named after this Greek location he starts by describing the myth which emanates from Plato’s orientation; Derrida describes the Khōra, ‘it oscillates between the two types of oscillation: the double exclusive (neither/nor) and the participation (both this and that).’[ Jacques Derrida, ‘Khōra’ in On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. 91 ] Such an oscillation or frequency fits the force one observes as the causal logic of revolution. The force transforms into a common noun “revolution” which is the culmination of a fluctuation in a form of logic.

The change found between exclusivity and participation is why one interprets the Khōra as a causal force because it implies a feeling of uncertain action like that of invasion, or an influx in immigration, and a conflict. This uncertainty is present in the ambiguity of the noun ‘revolution’ and what exactly it means. Furthermore, this doubt as to what is done in the name of revolution is resolved or completed in its success. An alternative to this expression is that within the site of potential revolution there is then a need of a referent but such a thing Derrida helps show is deeply abstract and one argues that this particular abstraction is a necessity.

‘Deprived of a real referent, that which in fact resembles a proper name finds itself also called an X which has as its property (as its physis and as its dynamis, Plato’s text will say) that it has nothing as its own and that it remains unformed, formless(amorphon). This very singular impropriety, which precisely is nothing, is just what Khōra must, if you like, keep; it is just what must be kept for it, what we must keep
for it.’[ Ibid. 97]

Yet, reading Derrida could suggest an opposite direction that we have to maintain the outside as formless and this would contradict my argument. This quote could be read from the perspective of a citizenry seen as keeping revolution indeterminate and external, but one would maintain that if this lack remains it is suggestive of an alternative cause: that the lack was not transformed into a name, an event (revolution).
So, let us test this idea and look to history beginning in France and some sources that hint at this movement away from the resemblance of a name, an X, to an actual name and suggest an accurate interpretation of this process named revolution. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the 1789 revolution that changed the entire reality of Europe.[ Alexis De Tocqueville. The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ] Tocqueville’s discussions of the changes that transformed the ancien regime (the old order) including: how the French revolution was a political revolution but with the distinctly religious character, territorial disputes giving way to principles, and the destruction of feudal and aristocratic institutions.

Again, the way Tocqueville writes supports the opposite notion of revolution the one that says it was a unique phenomena that originated in one country and then spread elsewhere. However, one does not agree with this because it does not reflect deeply enough on the religious aspect of this revolution. Religion for the French revolution was the Khōra; a power that was on the outside, in what sense can one claim this? The evidence for this perspective is that the then king Louis XIV who under the influence of Cardinal Mazarin embodied absolute rule. This means that kings where to believed to have a devine right implying that they were backed by the authority of God a power that was to also be responsible for the revolutionary thoughts of Karl Marx.[ Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ [1845] in: Early Writings, London: Penguin 1975. ] Yet, the royalty of France of this time also contributes even more to our discussion. The way king Louis XIV exercised his absolutism demonstrates power’s necessary movement from the outside to the inside. This is explicitly made obvious by the fact that this king prioritised military expansion at the expense of higher taxes on citizens – unanimously cited as the cause of the revolution.

Reading this we see power exercised expansively into space outside the country in military acts and expansion. This inevitably results in the country’s citizens adopting a line of thinking an equation that Sieyes articulated, ‘subtract the privileged order and the nation would not be something less, but something more.’[ Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, ‘Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? / What is the Third Estate?’ in Essay on Privileges, (January 1789). 96] Of course this power often manifests in incredibly violent ways and the French revolution is infamous for the ‘reign of terror’ and the mass executions by guillotine. Here we should take a moment to consider the difficulties we face when viewing the power that fuels revolutions because it seems to contain key signs or symptoms: abuse of military might and paranoia towards the outside coupled with the ambiguity of deciphering the difference between criminals and those who place faith in laws. Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobin’s behaved in such a way that enacted both symptoms but although their revolution was a success this did not save them from their fate. They fell victim to the very violence they wielded against their enemies; perceived both internally and externally power resulted in a short lived governance.

‘Wisdom, as much as power, presided over the creation of the universe…
If the revolutionary government is not seconded by the energy, enlightenment,
patriotism, and benevolence of all the people’s representatives, how can it have
the strength to respond proportionately to the efforts of Europe who are
attacking it, and to all the enemies of liberty pressing in on it from all sides?’[ Maximilien Robespierre. “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso, 2007.]

In the case of Russia Vladimir Lenin offers more evidence for one’s scepticism toward the idea that the power bringing about radical change is generated internally by alluding to sham socialists and their petit-bourgeois utopia.[ Vladimir Lenin. State and Revolution, introduction by Todd Chretien. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. 61.] How the ideology of the state being above classes betrays the working class. So, in Lenin’s discussion of the Russian revolution we can observe that he deemed the French revolutions of 1848 and 1871 to be a betrayal, the proletariat sell their birthright for a mess of porridge, and how the destruction of the state is a prerequisite for the formation of Marx’s the ‘workers dictatorship’ a main step towards human emancipation.[ Ibid, 63. ] We also learn of the struggles of the two quintessential rebel rouser’s so influential for Lenin and the Russian revolution; Marx and Engels came out and back into hiding, adding their firebrand journalism to revolutions in Germany and Europe (1848), yet these revolutions all failed because the fight for power came from within the same country and were all easily defeated. Lenin’s thoughts on Marx clarify the Khōra.

Marx never expected the communist revolution to take place in Russia. The manifesto he wrote with Friedrich Engels foresaw revolution taking place in more economically developed countries. The noun ‘Communist’ was the abstract necessity that Derrida described as a name and simultaneously an X because to be a communist one has to desire communities sharing the commons (both this and that, and neither nor. Remembering Derrida’s distinction). In the Russian revolution Lenin attempted to use Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat in other words ‘a vanguard party’ to do away with the rule of the Tsar and bring about socialism.[ Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company, 1978. 479-500.] The 1917 October Revolution in Saint Petersburg was led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and here we have movements associated with conflict (WW1, and exile in Lenin’s case) a desire for change that when forced to travel via way of exclusion seeks an inclusive tradition.

Mao Tse-Tsung wrote extensively about how he perceived a revolutionary tradition dating back to the people of the han dynasty. Mao claims, ‘the Chinese never submit to tyrannical rule but invariably use revolutionary means to overthrow or change it.’[ Mao Tse-Tsung, ‘The Chinese Revolution and The Chinese Communist Party’ in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tsung, Volume I,[https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_23.html] ] Whilst writing about his nation Mao is rightly brimming with pride and the sentences carry this feeling unabashedly and this may hide the simultaneous exaggeration that also resides within any writing of a political leader. In this case the aim of Mao was to clearly describe how it was the Chinese people’s great struggle that was the sole creator of what was to become the Peoples Republic of China and of course this is true to some extent but there is more than a little evidence that Mao and his revolutionaries had help from a power outside China.

Japan and its invading armies constitute this external force. The second ‘Sino-Japanese war’ (1937-1945) resulted in Japan committing some of the worst war crimes on record – an estimated two to three hundred thousand people where massacred and raped as Japanese forces captured the then Chinese capital of Nanjing. Here we have a dark example of this external power influencing a revolution because there is evidence that strongly suggests chairman Mao the leader of the Communist party of China saw this event as the reason for his successful revolution. Journalist Richard McGregor cites this confession. This quote demonstrates that Mao the instigator and figurehead of the cultural revolution consciously referenced the force that allowed him and his comrades to move from guerilla warfare and toward defeating the nationalists and to attain control over the country.

‘[A] meeting with a Japanese Socialist party leader, Mao perversely thanked Japan for invading China, because the turmoil created by the Imperial Army had enabled the CCP to come to power. “We would still be in the mountains and not be able to watch Peking Opera in Beijing,” he said. “It was exactly because the Imperial Japanese Army took up more than half of China that there was no way out for the Chinese people. So we woke up and started armed struggle, established many anti-Japanese bases, and created conditions for the War of Liberation. The Japanese monopolistic capitalists and warlords did a ‘good thing’ to us. If a ‘thank you’ is needed, I would actually like to thank the Japanese warlords.”[ Richard McGregor, The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan] ]

Adding to this example we can acknowledge that the use of ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese highlights the importance of feminist narratives in the future of revolution. The oppression of women and the fight for gender equality is one of the more important revolutionary battles happening today; perhaps the power that will make this gender revolution a success is a change in the role of the female as a mother, giving birth may change due to external influence of technology.[ Shulamith Firestone. The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA, 1970] Such changes will first manifest in the societal and cultural entities of the biggest countries.

China is currently the worlds biggest economy and global power this is because like America it is expanding its military but after its revolution the state that emerged became more self aware of its own character and culture.[ China is well known for the control of its population and its inward looking nature but also due to its philosophy Confucianism it places a much greater emphasis on the importance of the family as a structure. ] So, rather than expanding imperially via military strength China exercised control over its population building control within its own lands. This is why McGregor uses the metaphor of Thucydides Trap because he sees that the rising power of China as too much of a threat to America for there not to be war between these two great nations.[ Ibid, McGregor. ] However, the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war when Sparta attacked Athens is another example because this metaphor is politically applicable to many instances of conflict throughout history and its symptom is an arms/weapons race. Such a race, does it not demonstrate power coming from the outside? Yes, it is one example but staying with China the country offers more evidence it has in the last decade hosted some of the biggest workers unions in the world (unsurprising because one fifth of humanity is Chinese). Comprising of millions of members and are often farmers or rural workers – they are so big and well organised that the government is forced to communicate.

This takes us back to that truly revolutionary conversation that took place outside the city. A site to situate the power from the outside that generates the impetus for a change that even an ancient aristocrat like Plato saw as necessarily tied to the use of justice. But, in terms of revolution the use of justice is a power that first manifests in a place between legality and criminality, a place, a topos that we understand as the χώρα [Khōra]?

‘When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
Precisely. That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference. And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?’[ Plato, The Republic, Book II. ]

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Bibliography

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De Tocqueville, Alexis. (2011), The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Derrida, J. (1993), ‘Khōra’ in ‘On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California.
Shulamith Firestone. (1970), The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1978), “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In: The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company.
McGregor, R. The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan]
Plato. The Republic
_____ Timaeus,
Robespierre, Maximilien. (2007), “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso.
Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph. (2003), “What is the Third Estate?” In: Political Writings, edited and translated by Michael Sonenscher, 92-162. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Sublime Shanghai: A Review of Jacob Dreyer’s ‘The Nocturnal Wanderer’

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A fabulous account of an American’s experience of living in Chinese cities, particularly Shanghai. The novel sways from personal recollections of the changes throughout the author’s life to a rich exploration of the subjective pursuit of meaning as a westerner living in Asia. Reading the book one immediately connected to the nocturnal element of the writing. The twilight hours with which so many people who have nurtured creative ambitions will admit to frequently experiencing. Those moments when you can not sleep, just stay awake, and do something to entertain your mind – this and much more can be encountered in Dreyer’s loving text. His passion for Shanghai is shown to be so strong as to be an alibi for his very existence. In the book this Chinese super city is found to be in opposition to his birth place of America and its open spaces. Shanghai’s critical mass of humanity is revealed to contain much more than the Hu dialect potentially seeks to keep secret. When reviewing a book such as this it would be nice to be able to offer you a classical literary review. This however is not possible because this book has a dark hold over me. It has lured me into it’s labyrinth strewn covers and now I fear I will be forever lost in its pages. Just as the title suggests as soon as you start to read, darkness prevails, and all that is left is to wander. Where to begin? What topic in this Nocturnal adventure nullifies any doubts you could harbour for abandoning this novel in favour of a more daylight based narrative?

Could it be love that holds this collection of musings, explorations, and confessions together? Love: unavoidable, moreish, insatiable, inescapable, invigorating, and implicit in the affairs of man. Is represented here by letters, of which two seem the most important: Q and A. I choose to believe that Dreyer is true to his word, due to the confession-like nature of his recollections, which is why these two letters represent actual females not some fortuitous gambit on the essence of relationships being one of “seeker” and “keeper”, or worse “withholder”. Yet, perhaps such a thing is not so dafter notion. Indeed, perhaps it was on Dreyer’s mind to offer up a subliminal reminder that the actions of seeking and keeping are innate, unisex, and internal to human relations of the most complex forms. There are potentially no forms more complex than that going by the name love; here one wishes to draw attention to the fact that infatuation and love are not one and the same, but often merge into one. Furthering the notion that humans are irrational animals. Often to be found loving things over people? This is just a small section of the narrative this novel offers its readers – a foray into literature wrote with an Asian time.

Dreyer writes in a way which is open to hitch hikers, his sentences snake and coil their way around components and concepts. Just like Nietzsche’s snake imagery of the man eternally bound to wrestle with his own venom. An interesting moment in the book that Neitzsche regretted writing in German, yet Zarathrustra’s presence will forever serve as an example of what happens when we venture below where the air is not as heavy nor clean. I want to one day discuss with this writer the idea of masculine inferiority. Certain French thinkers have pointed out, or made this clear, that philosophy is feminine. Quentin Meillassoux for instance writing in After Finitude (2006) articulated this rather well using ‘she’ to refer to philosophy. This combines with a contemporary trend inside the academy of woman regaining, and occupying the top positions in the modern anglo-saxon/european universities. This I think is a very correct statement to make in light of the labours of Amy Ireland, Rosi Braidotti, Avital Ronnel, Judith Butler, Catherine Malabou, and Donna Haraway. This of course is one’s opinion but based upon thoughts that are true! Speaking of truth, it is true that there is this attitude that you hear sometimes adopted towards western men that go to Asia for the exotic erotic. Men that buy into the idea that there is an abundance of partners or prey in some cases. Speaking from experience, what is really sad is that there are some male numb nuts out there that go for the novelty of being an object for the female’s sexual gaze, and because they have such low standards for themselves and others commit themselves to a diseased sense of sexuality, a misguided notion of prowess, and full of disloyalty. Both, me and Dreyer, bearing in mind that we are male therefore stupid and more than capable of regressing to the behaviour of the latter description. After reflection we would likely agree that although it is delightful spending time with any woman it only has value if you genuinely care for the person rather then just seeing them as another object for one’s own mostly physical pleasure. In the book, nowhere is the deep feeling for an individual felt so strongly then at the beginning on page 8, ‘it felt as though we were floating, dreaming, twisting … There was nothing else in the world’. By page 81 and 82, raw feelings are expressed through weeping.

“Did my mind digest love and finally “grow out of it?” An oceanic feeling is impossible to grow out of, and love is an ocean, but a warm one; an amniotic ocean… in moments of love we forget Money (that is to say, death). The cold clinking and stacking of life; of the precise quantity of weights we can and cannot lift; of the precise quantity of objects we are able to purchase; of our precise value; these are antithetical to love, whose softness blurs borders.[ Jacob Dreyer, The Nocturnal Wanderer, Eros Press, London, MMXV (2015), p. 81.]”

Blurry borders are to be found at every corner, edge, and lattice of The Nocturnal Wanderer. One confesses that it is this aesthetic of blurriness evoked by both the title and book cover that made me acquire it. It would be nice to know the story behind such a delightful maze. It certainly hints at what to expect when you turn its pages. The philosophical references contained inside reach a crescendo as Dreyer on page 64 especially, but before that you read him articulating Hegel’s CEO-ish status (thought in the boardroom of the mind), then taking the big H and along with Baudelaire and Benjamin claims that they are not to be found on today’s highways because the urban unlike the city nullifies individual spirit – evidently the role of the individual is transcended, or re-affirmed by the never-ending Nietzsche, ‘who believed in a place unencumbered by the masses, a utopia that could be visited alone, built alone, inhabited alone.’ being untimely? The reference to Nietzsche opens the text up to another major seed that it plants in subtle ways. Directions that are quite anthropocentric in the sense that the noun ‘Anthropocene’ connotates: an epoch where humans have a much more central impact and role on the earth’s health – its when humanity has achieved a truly geological stature. What was then planted in my mind, and how I interpreted this section is that due to this change: from the modern city to the concept of the urban if one is to protect individuality one has to bow to the power of a nomadic existence. The conclusion of the book backs this up. Dreyer is done with the perversity of domesticated slavery. Yet, does this not indicate a strong belief in freedom? To be free of something one can appreciate, however freedom for oneself is much harder to fathom? The former implies an abandoning of something you may have objectively possessed, but the latter deals with subjectivity and sensibility. Freedom for oneself is already in a conversation with your sense of self and its limitations. All of which are most likely fully artificial constructs: your self-hood, sense of a thing, community, and civilisation. Dreyer’s writing navigates this very real disjunction between “belonging and becoming” on the line from “start to finish”, that is human life thought as literally linear.

This novel never delineates in this way its realism is anchored in a tacit acknowledgement that the microbe called homo and the macrobe known as humanity are both predetermined to be in an active process of negotiation. Finding a method best suited for dealing with the fact that belonging is always becoming. This cryptic utterance is present in Dreyer’s script as a meditation on the bourgeois white male’s privilege of choice, and this is heavily worked into the books deep well of narrative by means of a somewhat silent discourse on just how often ideology manifests clearly in architecture. To clarify Dreyer comments on the changes that have happened throughout history, but are now happening again in China with renewed ferocity. China currently has over one hundred cities that now house over one million people. So, through this literature we as a reader are invited to join in the journey from the wide open expanse of America all liberally imperialist dogmatically coded by it’s capital dependency to the wild east of China’s newly formed metropolises. Being born into western culture makes you lazy and a little hazy because we know that our privileges do not appear by miracles. But, by the exploitation of cheap labour both its outsourcing and intelligence recruiting, or talent scouting. However, China’s self belief is something that has the wider world listening (even if we do our best to hide it) … I want to ask Dreyer what his thoughts are regarding the following: China’s monetary power (especially the interesting thought that it has enough capital to weaponise it), how extreme is Xi Jinping’s People’s Republic of China’s law enforcement? Paying necessary respect to a great country to what extent does Confucianism influence the Chinese world view; just how together are their societies, and society built from the bricks of a nuclei called family? Finally, if we had the opportunity to sit down with this author. One imagines being able to have a great conversation quickly progressing from a comparison of our shared but separate experiences in living in the two main Asian countries: China and Japan. Then, on to the interconnected and extremely different (at least to western perceptions) of the ‘innate’.

Now, some individuals may suggest that just through the English word ‘innate’ they can grasp the cultural difference between the west and the east. Nevertheless, there is much to discuss here because it is different there is a level of acceptance of some phenomena in the east that is absent in the west. Let us relay this back to Language: the Chinese have the Confucian concept of 仁 ren, and the Japanese have a phrase 思いやりomoiyari. Both terms have different yet relevant meanings. Ren, is often translated as ‘the altruistic nature of being human’ maybe best expressed as an innate genuine quality of your kindness and intentionality. Omoiyari, is traditionally used in Japan to reference a state of an alignment between thought and action – an unwavering togetherness. To bring the inclusion of these examples of Asian language back to the book. The reason I reference them is to stress the importance of Mr. Dreyer’s admission of his own privilege and his unashamed recollecting on that which is public and private. In doing so his book offers a doorway into Asia, that was not here before…at least that’s how it was for me reading the book as I returned back to the west in a state of confusion, somewhat sad, and over thinking one’s relation to society or community. During the darkness of that flight this book helped me split reality into two. Two parts that are perhaps never one and the same?

“A POMPOUS ORATION. Consciousness discovers itself, with some vague past and a sense of agony, surrounded by a brutal state of nature. To escape this pain and achieve mastery over his environment, he does not merely wander through his creation (again, unlike an animal) but re-configures it. This reconfiguration takes the form of industry – of the city. Within this grey replica of the green wilderness, consciousness finds its station, a consciousness enforced by necessity. Consciousness as a particularity, is merely a tool of reason, and just as there can be no two options about a logical axiom, there can, in a truly rationalised world, be no space for individuality. The social, the aesthetic, or the political – different potential names for Spirit are merely vehicles for the ultimate triumph of reason. One reason has become dominant in material terms, individuality and subjectivity will also melt against its totality.[ Ibid p. 62.]”

So there are these two lives carved into reality by Dreyer the first is the one made by love, a love of questioning, a continuum anchored around asking: what makes this person so addictive? So… essential to my very existence. Then the second line this book has drawn consists of the unavoidable phenomenon of human dependence on Topos; for are we all not to be found waiting for the place named city to reveal existential insights into what “we” are? Alas, surely not as in the above quote where reason is accused of triumphalism, and westerners have their well ingrained notions of the individual and the subject totally liquidated. In such a way that the monster known as Mr. One may gulp them down with absolute relish. If you find this chilling then you need not fear. There is still a manner in measuring, providing a ratio where your well rooted western sense of separation can continue – that is why the above quote is pompous. It seeks to suggest that we have already arrived or reached totality with one reason being dominant. One here would like to offer up an alternative for the sake of furthering the conversations this literature may continue to invite. Reason as powerful as it is often creates a reasonless void – I am thinking of the Nanjin Massacre (1937), Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966), and many other examples as evidence of this nasty habit of the power of reason and those that offer rationalisations for even the most nefarious of acts. Therefore today in a country in which to a large degree the future of humanity will be shaped. One has to fully apprehend the power of the Chinese夜(night) after being so brilliantly led to Dreyer’s Sublime Shanghai one chooses to believe for every western person lucky enough to live in Asia. There is an Asian counterpart that is making the opposite journey and struggling to adjust to western weirdness. This suggestion is more than a little driven by one of the thinkers that Dreyer says is not to be found on the highways of China. Walter Benjamin, or at least his ghost, is I assure you present, when a young Chinese man from a less wealthy background makes the journey from rural to the urban, and finds himself digested into industrial mechanics of growth. During his long arduous hours the necessity to create and document his struggle manifests. Kanji is entered into the mobile phone, and through this technopoetic aesthetic the Angelus Novus appears, history remains hysterically hypnotic, and we are compelled to keep wondering through many marvellous nights.

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