To be civilized is also to reject the term ‘animal’ as it applies in the negative; hence, it would seem to be all too easy to say that being uncivilized is to accept this term as a warm one, as a term of privilege, as a badge of honor. To say that becoming animal, nay, barbarian, would be sufficient to meet the litmus test of true anti-civilizational thinking, is a very strong claim; proof would be a matter showing such to be essential.
We can show something to be essential only if we can exclude every counter-example; and the history of essence, in particular, its gradual uselessness, is a counter-proof. In any event, to say something is essentially X is to say that there is something unique about all the members of the set X, and, furthermore, that the set is complete, or, rather, that the set doesn’t intersect with any other sets. Consider the set of humyns. Traditionally we have defined these as rational animals; but it is not that the animal part is unique to humyns, since humyns are clearly not the only animals; nay, humyns are a subset of “the set” of animals. It is that the rational part is supposed to be unique to humyns; it is the rational predicate that is unique. Of course, this can only be taken as true if we qualify our statement saying, in an idealist tonality, all things being equal (ceteris paribus).
The trouble in general is that nothing is equal to anything else; there are just individuals. It is one thing to say that we both have various similarities, accidental, presumably; it is another to transcend these non-necessary conditions of being-X to reach and connect (via reference) with that which is ultimately responsible for being this kind of being. Light can be shed on this matter by attending, quickly, to a tricky nominalist-realist disagreement. For Duns Scotus, an individual just is, essentially, a vague set of formally distinct formalities. (A humyn is essentially rational and essentially animal; but there is no existing thing, if it is manifested by the substance humyn that is rational without at the same time being animal—of course, there are many animals that are not rational; it is just that rationality and animality are simultaneously present in this humyn substance). For William of Ockham, the very idea of a formality is confuses the law of noncontradiction; but this is more of a clue to what is at stake for Ockham; an unnecessary third, on a nominalit reading. The trouble is that Scotus is not just a nominalist; he is also a realist; but his doesn’t eschew nominalism. What’s the difference? It has often been put that Ockham’s meaning of necessity is altered by Scotus: “As many as necessary”, could follow a rigid metaphysics; for Scotus, it precipitates a pragmatism that multiplies placeholders, as Pini, and Rorty would say.
To say that Socrates is a man is to say that there is something about Socrates, really at the individuated site of Socrates, that justifies the application of the term, man-ness. For Scotus, Avicenna’s universal correlate is here crucial; no real thing can stand for anything else; only mental predicates (universals) stand for many. Hence, even prior to the moment that Socrates exists, there is a moment that his man-ness is carved out as would-be being; upon ‘creation’, such becomes part of a less-than-numerical unity, which is just the referential correlate for a set, or, in more conventional terms, that which justifies being in the extension of a class. The point that I am trying to make here is that man-ness was taken to be something that every man has in common; and with Scotus, having this man-ness is not had by any other man. That which unifies a set against all else then is the universal. The relationship between the idealist naming of X as such, is linked to the being of X, but these do not have the same properties. Hence, with Scotus we have a way out of questioning the application of a universal; such may not be exemplified, unless, of course, it is obvious that it does. And now, perhaps, we might have the capacity to reject the application of terms used against us. Set theory is a whole lot of pie in the sky, usually made for numbers, or things that do not exist; at best they are things we invent to order the world. They are not lifted from reality, but imposed upon perhaps unwilling material correlates. And we always have to qualify our statements with ceteris paribus. What is interesting about this foray into medieval metaphysics is that we might now be able to see the ridiculous bird-cage of oppressions for what it is: a creative act and merely a willingness to give a shit and perform as such. In the very least, we modify our being, individuated according to the parameters of others, a form of power over in an inverted hierarchy that denies the already individuated uniqueness of being this. What we must ask ourselves is whether it is an essential fact that one is a settler, or whatever various modes of resentment suggest we are, or whether the applied terms are accidental. If accidental, presumably the fact can be altered. If it can’t be altered, if privilege theory is permitted one more pass, then the accuser has to make an argument for why we have to care about their grasping at straws. That is to say, arguments for essentialisms are always a matter of replacing real living beings with idealistic (strawman) components.
What we are after is that which makes one essentially civilized. Often we are coddled into believing that it is rational to live in the shitty; that humyns (and domesticated animals within cruel bounds) belong in the city despite a huge anthropological literature that spells the opposite. Even domesticated animals are penned in; taught tricks; and fed meals, just as humyns are, only we are programmed to transfer labor for these privileges. What I am after is some proposition that makes one civilized; and I think we can sketch out a phenomenology here.
We often use terms to signify undesired traits. We refer to cops as pigs, not only because this is fashionable in anarchist circles but because cops do not appreciate being labeled ‘pigs’. There is something problematic about being swine-like. The distinguishing response to this, that pigs (not cops) are good, misses the point that anti-civ thinking may want to figure. What is it about being a pig that is problematic in this context? Does its being negative and undesirable help build the city? Perhaps this example is a little too difficult to work; but maybe it has something to do with pigging out, and the cultural figuring of cops and donuts, being overweight, etc. Still, it’s curious. Perhaps we are saying that their being privileged in a particular way, being rewarded for having the unchecked monopoly on violence, is a sickening indeed grotesque form of domestication, and as such, is unfair, etc.? Yet, the pig is to be abolished, presumably. Does this mean that our desire is for everyone to be piggish?—Perhaps only those that have the natural capacity to take space?—Those that have a right to it independent of monopolies of violence? The power of negation here is clearly to point us to a better utopia in which we manifest our own consequences, our own acts of revenge, unbridled from morality, or at least, this is what I tell myself so that finding affinity with anarchism isn’t a disturbing priest based morality.
Another figure is Animal, a character from the Muppets, which might be taken to signify animality in general. He doesn’t talk; he tends to make noise; and manifests this language on the drums. While he is good, he’s out of line, or just off the rails enough, irrational, perhaps: perhaps destined for the psychiatric-camp. Being animal is a matter of being out of touch with etiquette, being a disturbing or unbearable whatever. Now, being whatever is unbearable for most sharpening the knives of identity politics; but this is not what we wish to seize. This whatever includes the privative forms in the oppression Olympics, those forms of life that are targeted as generating oppression, and are therefore in need of transvaluation, according to those sheep that fail to create their own tools. Animality is precisely to fail to even be on the radar. It is to be the underbelly, the most intense target of oppression. Being like an animal is to be deserving of the camp; and it is expected that if you are like an animal (and if you are caught of course, as a wolf wearing wool), you will be domesticated and tamed. But we also wish to not be like Animal in the sense that we do not wish to perform long, somewhat out of place drum solos; our animals are those that are not yet domesticated. Animal is therefore bearable; whilst we wish to be very un(bear)able, perhaps hungry like a wolf. We nihilists know no morality; and in this way we are like animals. We tend to do what we can get away with; and if we are hidden properly, we can take it all for ourselves, in a glorious winning through.
Perhaps we can say unequivocally that if we are called animals, we are on the right track. Like ITS, we must be willing to confront our embarrassments, we must get used to shame, given that we are obviously following animals without morality here. Do animals feel shame? According to David Hume (Treatise), the mark of civilization, what the entire apparatus depends upon, is the promise; the promise that one will go to work; the promise that one will not steal: the promise that one will abide by the rules and repay debts. We are hampered here, plain and simple, by the fact that we fear consequences, that we fear jail. So what kind of animals are we to become? The ones that fear hungry bellies?—Not at all. We desire to be the ones that over come fear in a glorious ‘downgoing’. Our love affair is with necessity, so that every day we might get closer to qualitative living, and, simultaneously, further away from retirement.
When I die, when I am only too happy to go, forget my name, and cast me to my favorites.