Cabaret Voltaire: kultur vs zivilisation/ Fireworks
Rip up the rites of spring and start again.
0. Dark space behind the eyes, beyond physical sight. A Chaosmagick cyberspace, psychedelic slow motion maelstrom where ideas and energies, drift and shift and flow - then suddenly coalesce along some hidden fault line, the phases space reconfigures and a pulse of intensity ripples out, flashing over, arcing into the sphere of the physical, leaving tracks of its passage, like a particle of cosmic energy in / through a cloud chamber. We are Fireworks , irridescent globules strung out like dayglo beads in the darkness.
0.1A description of the neural pathways of the brain? The flux and flow of sub-atomic particles? The birth and evolution of stars and galaxies? The synasthaesic description of a piece of music? The transmission of ideas across and through culture?
0.2 From context, probably the last. A fractal like branching - so difficult to map with any precision onto any particular segment of spacetime. The crucial 'statement of belief' is that ideas have an energy. In some situations, the energy is intensified; in others it is dissipated.
0.3 To give an example : that punk was an 'energy' which reproduced itself many times in many situations (places/ people). The difficulty is that this way of experiencing a historical process is derived from an occult or magickal world view and thus conflicts with more rational world views.
0.4 Then why use it? Well, on the grounds that it offers me a wau to get my head round what would otherwise be a confusing and chaotic barrage of information. It is like Levi-Strauss' description of the shaman offering a 'myth of meaning' which makes sense of anotherwise chaotic reality. [ See my 'Culture as Heat' http://greengalloway.blogspot.com/2005/05/culture-as-heat.html for more on this theme]
0.5 So that the energies and influnces which fed into punk (inputs) and the energies and influences which came out of punk (outputs) are understood as reflicting the energies of a mythic struggle - kultur vs zivilisation.
1.kultur vs zivilisation
1.1 Since I have only just read Eksteins' book and maybe haven't quite digested his arguement, I'll try and spell out what I think he is on about. Germany as a unified nation-state only began in 1871, after the Franco-Prussia war. This new state also went througha rapid process of industrialisation, jumping ahead of Britain, where the process had built up slowly over 100 years or so. The newly unified Germany had no 'national' history, (although looked back to the era of the Holy Roman Empire ) but in its disunited form had been home to dozens of top-class poets, musicians and philosophers (Goethe, Beethoven, Hegel etc). The new Germany was also now home to cutting edge industry, technology and science.
1.2 The end result was that the new Germany saw itself as a dynamic entity having a historic 'destiny' [duty even] to create a new world order. Aspects of this harked back to the mythologised struggle between the Roman empire and the Germanic tribes (including of course the Goths) - in which decadent Roman 'civilisation' was reinvogorated and transformed by the natural energy of the Germanic tribes this creating Charlemange's Holy Roman Empire. Rather than the alternative point of view in which Roman civilisation was destroyed by the Goths, Vandals and Huns.
1.3 In this mythic re-construction of history, German ' kultur' represented and mannifested all that was new and progressive, whereas France and, especially, Britain represented a 'zivilisation' which was old, worn out and stultifying. Of particular annoyance was the fact that the French and British Empires has already laid claim to large chunks of the world, thus denying the German's their 'place in the sun'.
1.4 By 1914, the dangerously deluded but deeply held/ shared belief that a war between the forces of kultur and zivilisation was inevitable had taken hold in Germany. The theory was that this would, like the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 would be short and sharp. Kultur would inevitably (since it had the weight of 'true' history behind it) truimph over the decandent forces of Franco-British (and now Russian, thanks to entanglement with Austro Hungarian empire) ) zivilisation. The twentieth century would dawn as the beginning of a new age...
2. The Age of Force and Fire
2.1 Although what is now Iraq can claim to be the 'cradle of civilisation' - home to Uruk and the first city states of Sumeria- the physical remains of ancient Egypt have survived in more impressive form. Thanks to the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon 200 years ago, the historical significance of Egpyt as an ancient civilsation was absorbed by European culture- helped by the eventual translation of the Rosetta Stone.
2.2 The ability to translate Egyptian texts opened up the richness of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs. These in turn informed and deeply inlunced the structure of a Victorian magical society/ order called the Golden Dawn. Edward Alexander (Aleister) Crowley joined this order and when he set about creating his own magical system, he recycled Golden Dawn themes, including their ancient Egyptian cosmology.
2.3 During a stay in Cairo in 1904, Crowley had a visonary experience/ revelation. From this vision he realised that the old worldorder was dying and and a new world order was struggling to be born. Thanks to his Golden Dawn initiations, Crowley was able to structure this massive eruption of 'unconsious' energy. The old world order was that of the Egyptian godform or 'neter' Osiris. The new, that of Osiris' son, Horus.
2.4 Crowley's vision was set out in an inspired text called The Book of the Law. This text Crowley claimed was dictated to him by a 'praeterhuman' entity/ intelligence called Aiwass. Praeter is Latin for 'leading' or ' in advance' as in the Roman 'Praetorian Guard' - the shock troops who were first in battle, but who later became the Emperor's personal body guard. Praeterhuman would thus mean 'in advance of humanity' or 'future human' - Neitzche's 'superman'.
2.5 Crowley went on to claim that the mere publication of this revolutionary text in 1913 and then again in 1938 (with much benefit of hindsight) triggered the two world wars... Which is bullshit to the nth degree, but no doubt why AC still figures in popular culture whilst other magicians do not.
2.6 On the other hand... if the new aeon of Horus can be equated with German 'kultur' and aeon of Osiris with 'zivilisation', maybe he was on to something. Maybe he had tapped into something which was in the air. As with the Rites of Spring in avant garde culture.
2.7 A 'something' which as the Great War turned into the deliberate ( becuase no other way of fighting modern war emerged) destruction of millions of young men 's lives gave birth through death to Dada and the Cabaret Voltaire. To surrealism and the situationists. To our 'counterculture', which is BOLD STATEMENT the Hegelian synthesis which has emerged/ evolved out of the conflict between zivilisation as thesesis and kultur as antithesis.
3. So what?
3.1 To ask ' So what?' is the correct punk/ countercultural response to such imaginative speculations.
3.2 What difference does it make if I am right? I don't know. It kinda makes sense to me, but then I have spent thirty years or so wrestling with such possible ideas. So I can jump from vague notion to vague notion on the back of hours/ days/ years of taking vague notions (desires) for reality. It could take another 30 years (if I get to live that long) to be able to present some coherent version.
3.3 But so what. Today the sun is shining, but not quite melting the frost. My 19 year old daughter has gone to London on her own after four years struggling with clinical depression. She should be around Watford by now....
3.4 Zounds: Subvert.
Subvert, subvert, subvert
If you gotta job, you can be an agent
You can work for revolution in your place of employment