Camouflage (Sex and Trust)
Becoming ubiquitous and dispersed is another means to hide, which provides space for refusal.
The elevated servant has replaced the authoritarian master as a representative leader. However, this ingratiating camouflage is more repressive than a blunt command: instead of merely obeying the act, you must feel gratitude for the martyr.
Sex is similarly flipped from consummated desire into a mediated, attenuated dispersal: “what you want” becomes a larger-than-life context, a landscape of desire, which detaches libido from a person and into oddly distributed cravings. For example, our sexual craving for celebrity flesh culminates in car worship, shoe fetishes, or nationalistic vacations.
Note: there are references to the earlier podcast on Step 72: Camouflage
Zižek uses the term “minimal distance.”
- 0:08 Why camouflage is like a rhizome.
- 2:44 The servant as master disguise.
- 5:16 The boss who tries to also be your best friend.
- 6:56 The ubiquity of repetition and mass media: Marylin Monroe
- 9:18 Desire has become decentralized and dispersed: objects and landscape.
- 12:13 The decentralization of the self and sex.
- 14:45 Disguise is the facade that shelters the self but enables psychopathic killers.
- 16:57 We no longer trust the image: AI and the attention economy.
- 19:28 Do you still have the power to focus? or to just act?
Unfortunately, when our entire society (context in which we derive meaning) becomes detached and convoluted, where leaders pretend servitude and our procreative, intimate impulse is an unsatiable commodity fetish, there is no longer a stable reality on which to fall back or rely. (Nothing is as it feels.)
Camouflage ceases to work: when all is deceit, we cease to believe.
Artificial Intelligence further erodes trust, and perhaps our only tactic is to create a “minimal distance” through a camouflaging tactic to reshape our mediated desires.
Step 73: Camouflage (Sex and Trust)
Part 1: Master Servant
My sister told me a Buddhist story about becoming low like water is to be powerful. Water is ubiquitous and, therefore a bit banal, yet it carves the Grand Canyon and splits stones. We can say water is so powerful and yet so humble. And this can feel a bit true and trite.
Yet in the context of camouflage, this tactic of playing the gentle servant who gradually wears down mountains feels like another disguise, a long, long con. This is not waterboarding but Chinese water torture.
It is chiseling. And some people are chiselers, just slower and more persistant about it.
Slavoj Žižek gave a talk on authority and mentioned how at one point in time, the Master was the authority. The master once said, “do this, do that, because I said so.” But we started beheading those people, so now we have switched to wanting masters who say they will serve us.
It sounds very biblical: “I will lower myself and humbly serve at your request as a representative tool of your will. I will don the garb of a leader, or the costume of the Communist party or red army, whatever, and humbly enact the people’s will through the state. Mysteriously I will rise in power while as a martyr, I will claim my actions are for others.”
This contradiction is the servant as the master who gives all of himself. This confusion is similar to the boss who acts like your best friend and the parent guilting you through their sacrifice.
Zizek’s famous story is that the authority or father who tells you to go to your grandmother’s house at least does not tell you how to feel about it: you can secretly hate it, but the parent who says you must go and must want to go and feel good about it is MUCH more repressive.
On the way to grandmother’s, we cross the river and realize that we have been undermined, eroded, in the most pernicious way: our feelings are illegitimate. Our core self is flawed; we must manufacture a disguise to hide our shame.
Perhaps we, too, learning from this incident, turn into a chiseler: the soft and slow kind, like water, who gurgles and bubbles and is enjoyable, but somehow dissolves our very self (our foundations) while appearing to aid us.
Step 73: Camouflage (Sex and Trust)
Part 2: Sex and Landscape
In a more complex fashion, we can consider the ubiquity of something; it’s repetition as a type of camouflage.
Marilyn Monroe becomes a sex symbol, and the power of her image expands her persona until eventually, it is on repeat: as herself is made through media, initially portrayed (inaccurately) as the dumb blonde sex object, the image of her is constructed: an artificial costume that has real-world consequences.
Overdosing at age 37, her image lived on as it was in some way separate from the person: a symbol of sex, beauty, and a bygone era.
Warhol used this image, no longer a person necessarily but an idea of media, an image created by media, on repeat. The repetition strips aura through ubiquity while oddly empowering the trust bias as this star is the very context in which we survive: this is societal normalization as bigger than life and dispersed through the world.
JG Ballard (sex and landscape)
Taken from JG Ballard, the face or body on a huge billboard mimics the landscape. The curve of the hip or the philtrum crashing into the lip becomes the valley and ravines carved by flash floods, and the hills’ curves are sexual.
This type of camouflage, the larger-than-life infiltrating into the common, will not allow the person to be seen. The projection at scale safely guards the core.
As well the libido is involved in shaping this camouflage, and as Ballard writes on it in the Atrocity Exhibition and Crash, desire is decentralized, spread away from the human into the surroundings, both the landscape and objects. We do not see people anymore, but the commodified object as a desire to be obtained, and our way to relate or show appreciation is to fuck the object.
Desire culminates in and is reduced to the sexual act.
Without a person attached, but only the floating, abstracted idea of a person as a symbol (ie, Marilyn), we have a libido completely detached from the real and in need of fixation, fixity, or a real act to make it somehow grounded. As we learned through the production of mimetic desire… media provides the image for us to crave; we make it real in our consumption and consummation.
But, back to the camouflaging tactic amidst a soluble world of free-floating symbols: This dissolution of the self renders the body (of the other) as simultaneously object and landscape, fuckable and a nebulous pervasive context.
This attenuation separates libido from knowing. “Knowing” is not intellectual curiosity and pursuit of the essence (the core of desire) but is reduced to “to know,” which in the biblical sense is carnal knowledge.
Essentially, all knowledge, all-knowing, comes through sex. The act with the object is a reduction here: all relations – even to objects and landscape- become carnal. We cannot satisfy or produce a stronger, more compelling, deeper connection to sustain a persistent craving.
In such a way, our craving -persistently biological and the basis of our identification (subjectivity)- insists on fulfillment: after all, how do we know ourselves other than what we crave to consume?
Camoufalge as Decentralization, targeting trauma
More importantly, this is camo through subject/context confusion and dispersal. Or decentralization.
Interestingly, despite the dispersal that you would assume nebulizes all emotion and relation, we still have trauma. And because the external is so dispersed and unfulfilling, we turn inwards to our pain before projecting back out.
We fixate on our pain, and we put our trauma on repeat.
Just like Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe heads on repeat: we aggrandize and mine our pain repetitively, putting it on view. This is the site of the “crash” we revisit as the predominant means of getting off, though we naturally deny that.
The crux is: We cannot escape ourselves in a world where nothing is fixed or authentic. We are driven internally (compelled). And to protect ourselves, we camouflage externally.
Returning to the last episode: the camouflage of the Hunter blends them with nature, Essentially dissolving the self into the surroundings. It is intentionally losing the self: learning invisibility for a forthcoming attack.
And with this skill, learned in nature and mapped onto civilization and digital media, “How to disappear completely” (Radiohead and How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV – thank you Hito Steyerl), the threat of attack is re-introduced.
To disappear, to dissolve the self into your context, opens possibilities.
It is refusal. It is also threat.
It might also be the only way to gain enough distance to learn yourself, to unwind from mimetic desire and mediated sex. Still, then again, it more than likely is precisely the facade shelters incipient death dealers.
Step 73: Camouflage (Sex and Trust)
Part 3: Trust
Finally, we address the new: the digital and the travails of insecurity amidst all people and corporations practicing camouflage: in such a world, there is no real, and there can be no trust. Nothing is what it seems, so the paranoia is healthy.
We are in a time of fakery and phonies, people can’t tell the difference between an AI doctored photo of the Pope and an actual photo of a pope. AI will make an argument that somebody is wrong and reference an article that doesn’t exist, it will accuse a professor of sexual misconduct, citing a time when he was in Alaska even though the professor never visited Alaska with students.
Our systems we used to establish trust, such as crowdsourced wikipedia with moderators, has become a battleground over he word “recession”. And lets not even get into hot-button topics.
The digital world, through transparency and access promised a more nuanced version of facts and truth, and yet has now delivered the opposite.
We no longer trust the image.
People like Matthew B. Crawford talk about the attention economy: How we cannot self-govern it if Big Data and supercomputers manipulate our attention. Yet this is predicated upon our reality of wanting a techno-Utopia. To save it, people invent blockchain and crypto to reinstill trust in a runaway system of illusions and desire.
Yet trust is gone.
We have only attention left, demoralized as it is, incepted with lies and mimetic desires: even the images we purchase, consume and copulate with, we do not believe.
On a national level, destabilization, or lack of trust in the current government, is a tactic used against foreign governments to introduce a puppet regime rather than the autonomous one that would excise cancer.
Cancer (as an interesting metaphor) fights back by saying it is indeed part of you; it is almost undifferentiated from your healthy DNA. Your body trusts it immunologically because it is of you: it has some of the right markers and passcodes. And yet, indeed, this camouflaged parasite is mortally harmful.
If your attention is hacked, distracted, and captured, fed images of billboard-sized sexualized items, perhaps people or cars or vacations, whatever, and a lust for the outdoors permeates your Instagram feed… do you still have the power to focus? Have you been so thoroughly dazzled, so buffaloed with obfuscatory claims and your warped desires, that you have lost your ability to focus?
Focus is the only thing that can allow us to determine who we are and how we react, giving us the power to shape our world.
In a society of all camouflage, all surface, and very little substance, where we cheer because of ideology, not because of greatness, we have no trusted path. There is no longer a way to know “The forest for the trees” without trusting that they are trees.
Our only way to shape our world becomes to react with the strategies at hand: hunker down, to hide, camouflage, and when threatened, dazzle or obfuscate.
While there, maybe you don’t need to dive into “radical vulnerability,” but perhaps figure out your shit. The only way we will make it through this loss of trust in experts and digital tech is to reestablish trust between people.
Step 73: Camouflage (Sex and Trust)
Up next, we will look at the state as a theater that militarizes the citizenry.
Donations have been disabled
If you enjoyed the content, please help offset the costs of production.
“Wanting: Memetic desire in everyday life” by Luke Burgis
Sex and the Failed Absolute, Slavoj Zizek
Zizek and So on… Podcast
Flatline Constructs, Mark Fisher
Crash, JG BAllard
My daily habit: