[-empyre-] headline: human interaction reaches junk status!

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 07:04:58 EST 2009

I think you are right to suggest that I am downgrading human
interaction to junk status.  And I cannot say that it was necessarily
ever different.  But I still want to the kind of person who does not
always act like an idiot and who is willing to make changes to build a
world that is different.

I don't know that junk status is absolute.  If somebody wants to make
an argument in favor of one way of doing something over another, then,
my judgment is wrong precisely because I have claimed that everything
is so "thoughtless."  If someone says, "No, Davin.  You are wrong.  I
am not as thoughtless as you think."  And if they can articulate this
thought, it would be hard for me to insist otherwise.  But, if people
don't care to explore the space of their consciousness (and better
yet, share it), instead preferring to ride on cruise control, then in
that particular case, they have been thoughtless.  And, of course,
nobody should have to prove they are thoughtful to me....  but they
should try to prove it to themselves from time to time, the more the

While I am sure that people have always been pretty thoughtless, it
strikes me as particularly true in our age of relentless busyness.  I
am particularly taken by Virilio's arguments about speed and
cybernetics, particularly the notion that acceleration leads to
decreased capacity to respond responsibly, so judgment is increasingly
embodied in formulas and cybernetic systems.  When we killed each
other with rocks, you had to look at the person you were going to
crush before you crushed them.  Today, when you kill someone at
supersonic speed, you just plug in some coordinates, and the machine
does the rest.  Or, you can just kill through default by destroying
infrastructure and imposing embargoes.  This is thoughtlessness on an
ultimate scale.

I'm plenty thoughtless myself.  And I feel like I should be more
thoughtful.  And when I try to be thoughtful, it is usually fairly
exhausting and often frustrating.  But, on the other hand, it's also
very rewarding in its own way.  It's usually accompanied by some
feeling of guilt, possibly some immediate changes in my behavior, and
eventually a sense that I tried to do something other than what I
would have done had I not been mindful.  It's a modest reward, and
maybe it is an impossible way to change anything in all but the most
minute ways, but I would like to believe that if enough people even
devoted a modest slice of each day (5 minutes) to something as simple
as studying and reflecting upon some injustice that they themselves
have inflicted upon another, either through action or omission,
directly or indirectly, that the world we would create would be much
more ethical.  (Jeez!  I guess I am becoming a whacko.)


On Tue, Apr 21, 2009 at 3:30 PM, Nicholas Ruiz III
<editor at intertheory.org> wrote:
> Indeed, the consumer society has been rotten forever...but at least we can switch the channel from the wedding planners to the forensic pathologists...sounds like you're downgrading human interaction to junk status...but we might ask...when was it different? When was the way we were...'here'...I'm just curious to know... :-)
>  Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
> Editor, Kritikos
> http://intertheory.org
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: davin heckman <davinheckman at gmail.com>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Sent: Monday, April 6, 2009 10:32:43 PM
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 53, Issue 6
> I think this might be why gift giving can be so subversive, because if
> we were to resign ourselves, say, to viewing the cash nexus as the
> only medium for exchange...  gift giving implies that the cash nexus
> is incomplete or insufficient.
> If you give a gift (say, you give someone a copy of your favorite
> book) and it returns to you with an expected equivalent compensation
> from the recipient ($27.95), then this is a business transaction.  If
> the gift returns to you in all of the various ways that gifts can...
> you strengthen a bond of friendship, you feel a little bit better,
> maybe even you hope that someday someone will give you a gift (maybe a
> mix tape or their favorite music or a copy of THEIR favorite book), or
> whatever...  it cheapens the whole idea of economics by suggesting
> that something else matters more.  Say you are a jerk and you neglect
> to say "thank you" for a gift, this implies that the money or the time
> spent is not an issue....  it's a fundamental "lack of respect" or
> something social that you have screwed up.  It's not fraud, theft, or
> a crime against property....  it is an offense against a human being,
> it hurts people's feelings, it disrupts the social order, it is
> inconsiderate, etc.  Or, the giver might not even mind.  In any case,
> at the very most it allows capitalism a role in human relations, but
> it is not the dominant role.
> On the other hand, there are a great many "human" situations which
> require gift giving, but which have been fairly formalized and are
> being turned into transactions.  Weddings, for instance.  The
> historical role of wedding gifts was to help the new couple establish
> a home.  To help streamline this process for the benefit of guests,
> people started creating registries.  And today, people....  even those
> who already have a home together...  just request a bunch of new stuff
> that they didn't get around to buying yet....  and they hope that in
> exchange for a superfluous ceremony, you will buy them a specific set
> of dishes which is nicer than the decent set they already own.  I am
> looking forward to the day when all weddings will be handled by
> paypal....  you can pay money in small denominations to see virtual
> images of what the wedding would look like if it were to take place,
> and even pay extra to be in the wedding party.  The money could even
> be placed in escrow in case of divorce.  And then, after five years of
> virtually wedded bliss, you can take the money out of the escrow
> account and have a live action ceremony.  I know I am being cynical
> about these things.  And the truth is, I actually like weddings a
> great deal.  But I am a sentimental person, so I am suspicious about
> those things which turn the objects of my sentiment into commodities.
> It's not the couples that upset me...  it's this whole industry which
> says, "OK, now, you are supposed to act like this.  He is supposed to
> act this way.  She is supposed to be like such and such."  (I even
> went to a wedding where we had to take all kinds of pictures of things
> that didn't happen during the wedding.  Like walking down a flight of
> stairs and pretending that we were waving to people that weren't
> there, over and over again, and lots of people yelling about how to
> look comfortable and pleased.  It was surreal.  Think of mushrooms in
> painful shoes, and that about is what it was like.)  But to bring it
> back to gift giving, here you have the market trying to turn weddings
> into cash by selling it as a particular type of reality show.
> Sorry to ramble.  Good thing there are no page limits.
> Peace!
> Davin
> On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 7:40 PM, Cinzia Cremona
> <cinziacremona at googlemail.com> wrote:
>>>As for reciprocity, for Derrida, there is a fundamental dissymetry between
>>> myself and the Other, as well as among myself and the "other >others" with
>>> whom I share social concourse: the gift I am expected to hand over to the
>>> deity is one which will not be reciprocated, but >refused, causing me to be
>>> remunerated in a posthumous order where spirirual riches accumulate, but
>>> only if I forget.  With DNA in the place >of the Other, does this dissymetry
>>> remain, or is the playng field leveled?
>>>For Derrida, to give is to forget that one has given: but can we forget our
>>> investments?
>> I am glad I haven't missed this latest discussion, although it is hard to
>> find the time to follow the conversation as it deserves.
>> In relation to the passage above, I was thinking about Derrida's contretemps
>> - when I give, I do not forget my gift, but I do not know when I will see
>> what the return might be ... or from what direction it might come. How about
>> reading dissymetry and lack of reciprocity as a possible wider form of
>> circulation of capital, and of a larger variety of forms of capital? The
>> gifts I receive might not be comparable to the gifts I have given in terms
>> of a certain value system, but I might still depend on them, or they might
>> be priceless from a different perspective. Also, I find it quite plausible
>> to expect gifts from those I have not given to, and have no intention or
>> capacity to give to.
>> --
>> Cinzia
>> Visions in the Nunnery
>> 22 to 31 May 2009
>> openvisions.org
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