The gatekeeper dies
When nothing lives
Behind his walls.
The farmer starves
If he doesn’t
Feed his crops.
The poor heron
Finds no fish
In a puddle.
--Sam O. Rolhds, dated November 18th, 2017
My apologies, friends of Ello (whoever may be out there). It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here. As much as I want to blame it on the slow influx of letters, I cannot, in good conscience, do so without admitting I’ve received a few in the intervening month(s). These two prophesies came to me back in late March—but my legal issues have created a sizable blockage to productivity. Without getting too victim-y, I was dismayed by the fact I’m being trapped in this state by the Office of Probation of (county) and haven’t been able to do the necessary out-of-state research I need to do to uncover the identity of the elusive Sam O. Rolhds.
I believe he’s been reading my posts, though, considering he sent these two (rather timely) prophesies to me. I wanted to visit the coordinates appending the latest letter from Rolhds—but could not. The feelings of heavy vice-teeth slowly but voraciously clamping on my neck become ever more palpable as my tenure in this ill-fated system of remediation thickens, expands, and further complicates,
But, this time has been nevertheless educational for me (as well as being a royal headache) and with education comes productivity—I’ve an entire sub-oeuvre of material concerning my once temperate disdain of authority into full-blown loathing. Moreover, it’s given me some points and ideas to ponder over during the time of probation—namely, the confines of liberty.
That’s odd to think about: Liberty confined. We all tend toward the notion that liberty is, well, liberated. However, liberty is only truly liberated once there are no bounds—internal, external, authorized, or internalized—set to control its manifestation. I’m not proposing that either of these prophesies contain paranoiac feverdreams of authoritarian nightmares (a la 1984 or We or Brave New World) as those visions, though once helpful to halt the tide of more obvious authoritarian regimes, they are but dreary clichés of infantile notions of liberty. Rather, these prophesies outline a subtler notion of liberty—of liberty in bounds. Put another way, after the triumph of global capitalism in the late 80s, early 90s, and the advent of global and “wide-ranging market reforms [that] abolished the monopolies ” of dictatorial governments (price controls and general oppression of yeoman) people were given liberties back. They were able to self-actualize inside a system of capitalism, one where, as the classical liberalism would have it, people were free. To an extent, certainly. But, the fact they were freed from the monopolies of governments means they were freed to the general sway of market forces—of global capitalism. In deleuzoguattarian terms, they were liberated from the despot and its fascizing elements, having gone to the (supposedly) schizophrenic limits of the Urstaat. Yet, we’d have to look at this problem slightly deeper to notice the schizophrenic limit of the State is only an internal limit of some outer, more abstract system of material exchange (as opposed to being one-way, as in despotism, it’s multifaceted): capitalism.
The abstract and (nominal) quality of capitalism is that it provides a field of indeterminate connections, none preordained or controlled. However, in keeping with deleuzoguattarian thought, the inclusion of the State in that field (the abstracting field of capitalism) maintain a kind of ur-determination of connection: a set range of the field wherein connections can be made at random. Controlled chaos, as it were. To paraphrase Anti-Oedipus the maintenance of that ‘range’ is what constitutes capitalism (as in, a system of controlled connections). Capitalism, without the State element, would swiftly abstract into pure connectivity—in that, there would be a completely unregulated flow of material. In this highly theoretical conception, given the power of pure connectivity, there would be no amassing of wealth (capital, the proxy for material) and rather just the exchange of material making use of the proxy. However, I can only make conjectures as to what a completely unregulated flow of capital would entail, considering we’ve never been without the State element. But, given the liberty to make such a conjecture, I would say that it would manifest as a system of exchange where people have the power to make connections (not profit, nor vast fortunes). Please bear in mind, pure connectivity would still abide with economic laws that state that the ubiquity of such capital (i.e. the token for which exchange can occur in the abstract) would necessarily make it useless, being only a vehicle to negotiate (hopefully peacefully) the exchange of goods.
The problem is that in a determinate system of exchange the dollar (the proxy, capital) maintains more value than the material which it negotiates. The proxy (capital) given surplus value (a concept I had an exceedingly difficult time understanding) creates a system of laws which govern the flow of that proxy (circulation of capital [CoC]). When the CoC is regulated by its surplus value (i.e., that the proxy itself has a kind of material worth added to or coexistent with the material it negotiates) it becomes another system. Those with the most tend to control its flow back toward themselves, thus creating the vast fortunes, the wealth disparities. As a negotiator, pure and simple, capital could be infinite and meaningless—but peaceful and, I’d say, desirable (considering the past of capital-less resource wars). To gel the above information, the abstract connectivity that capital (note: not capitalism) allows for all to participate in the free exchange of material via a proxy. However, because the proxy has value in addition to the material it negotiates, it creates system of exchange (ordered) that effectively determines the exchange of material (disordered, or, more accurately, abstract or indeterminate). Who makes these rules? Those with the most, beneficiaries of the CoC. What happens when the CoC is choked and lead in the direction of only a few people? They become politicians and make laws to cement the perverted CoC.
CoC-heads, if you will.
However, I do not want to set the impression I am fighting for some gross neoliberal wetdream, wherein the State is abolished (or made flaccid by the free market). No, I cringe at the very thought and how cringe-worthy the similarity between my theory and the philosophies of neoliberalism. However, I cannot deny that the abstracting qualities of capital do allow for a liberated exchange of material (and, consequently, the free exchange of ideas as cultural productions, or memes). The liberty afforded to that exchange is curtailed by the –ism of capitalism, by a “gatekeeper” as in the first prophecy [ln. 1; Proph 16].
This is where these two prophecies become relevant: in the wake of a system of capital regulation. The first prophecy deals with the external regulation of CoC and the second, with the internal manifestation—both, together, show the co-penetration of CoC across the abstract field capital has enabled (or rather, revealed). Though Proph16 does not deal exclusively (or explicitly) with the regulation of capital, it does ruminate on the problems of a limited form of liberty, one where connections are limited by the dual-systematics of (surplus-value) capital and the exchange of material (made systematic by CoC). As the exchange of material becomes more abstract, the connections between people are enabled and become more liberated and embody the widening (or, rather, the interminably wide) socio-material field. These connections become less and less dependent upon the law of the gatekeeper (though in tiny, almost microscopic increments) as their actuator. They become independent and self-determining. However, as P16 suggests, the gatekeeper is still very much present still and only acts in that capacity rather than as an active force. But, we can imagine, the gatekeeper was never an active force to begin with—only a reactionary, law-bearing, and regulating force. Powerful, though he is, powerful enough to erect “his walls” his only source of power is to rein in whatever abstract and active connections that can be made (ln. 3; P16). This is a not-so subtle nod to the infamous orange monster’s adage “Build that Wall!.” Though, I can’t say this Proph deals exclusively in open borders, it’s still a part of the discussion, Regardless, the walls of the gatekeeper act as the determinate edges of the socio-material field in which connections can be made—effectively, this edge is the CoC: the allowance of connections based on the surplus-value of capital. These are not literal walls nor are they forms of oppression (solely, though oppression does manifest at those edges as a nudge back toward the CoC). Yet, the CoC cannot subsist on itself forever, especially if profit is to be made. As the CoC, in its gatekeeper capacity, needs to generate profit to amass capital, to increase its presence, power, and affecting capabilities. If we assume the CoC is a flow of some finite material (made artificially scarce to maintain a value, however subject to fluctuation) of capital and the motive behind participants in the CoC is to generate profit, some will inevitably to better than others (in the case of inequality). If the finitude holds up (so as to preserve value), profit will draw the balance of capital toward the end with the most, leaving the other side (or rather, over the length of the moneyed spectrum) with less of that capital. This syllogism doesn’t reveal much, other than that inequality is inevitable in the CoC. If, however, we assume our economy (the CoC) operates on the consumption of goods, inequality seems to negatively impact the CoC: if one side of the CoC has less, then the side of the CoC with the most can only produce goods to a decreasing audience of consumers as people will be unable to consume certain goods (or consume them with increasing difficulty). Capitalism consumes itself in its own scarcity, its own imprudent frugality and profit mongering. This is evident in the warning of P17, that: “the farmer [will] starve//If he doesn’t//Feed his crops” (ln. 1-3; P17). The gatekeeper is the same as the farmer: they are stewards of some bound field tasked with controlling the growth and movement—for purposes not entirely spelled out, but likely existential in nature—of whatever beings exist inside its sphere of influence. Given the artificial scarcity of the CoC, perpetuated by the moneyed side of the CoC, there is less food for the farmer to consume himself—or profit from production—and will likely start to consume himself, as in the case of starvation or times of privation. Without the necessary field of substance (or human capital) the farmer (or gatekeeper) cannot himself thrive. The unequal direction of the CoC ensures that no one will thrive. Though the farmer is stronger constitutionally than the plants he neglects or only superficially tends to, he will not survive once the field is empty, once there is no one to participate in the CoC. His excess constitution is representative of the excess monies the rich and powerful have—but they too are finite leading to increased fears—and paranoia—of an existential crisis.
Yet, the alternative being that people are given more money to participate in the CoC (to consume and thus to drive up profit), of the farmer feeing his crops more, the balance of capital seems to even out. This sounds a lot like socialism. However, socialism is a State-ordained function, a system that curtails liberty in its philosophical consequence as well as its practical manifestation. There are still walls. Moreover, we have not solved the problem of allowing abstract connectivity that capital enabled—merely shifted it to a different hand. The gatekeeper still lives. The farmer still lives as his plants thrive. This situation, though more ideal than a completely frugal farmer or an overly dictatorial gatekeeper, is still within the bounds of an axiomatic—an internal limit to the abstracting abilities of capital. Could we go beyond that?
Then, what of the “[death]” of the charge of the gatekeeper? What makes the gatekeeper’s charge die (ln. 1; P16)? P16 answers: “when nothing lives//behind his walls” (ln. 2-3; P16). If we take what we’ve figured out so far, the walls are representative of the edges of the social field: the extend of the connections we are allowed to make: the CoC. The only living being behind the walls is the gatekeeper himself, the guarantor of the CoC when the CoC is allowed to, presumably, deny any person from entering—or, in this case, enabling the diminishing of participators in the CoC. Given the abstract connectivity of capital—which, bear in mind, goes against the artificial scarcity of capital as it stands—States and the CoC of the State, needs a kind of governing in order to maintain the inequality that allows for profit. Taken to an extreme, as P16 does, the only thing allowed to thrive in this arrangement is the rule of the CoC which is no person at all, merely a disembodied, impersonal rule. This rule does not seem to regard the participants even though they are the sole reason for the operation of the CoC. For all intents and purposes, those behind the walls of the gatekeeper are already dead and the gatekeeper is merely a steward of a mass open grave. At least that’s how I feel when I’m at work or paying bills. Yes, in this arrangement, we are allowed to spend or invest our money as we see fit, but we are not allowed to not spend money—not to be outside of the walls of the field or the tilled lanes of the crop. CoC would thrive if we were given money (UBI, anyone?) to participate. There would still be the need for an unequal distribution of capital, still a hold on its surplus-value.
This is where things get a little interesting. Considering the logical (or intuitive) direction of this theory rests in the anarchical direction (which I’m in favor of) we are not without the bounds of the socio-material field. The socio-material field is not, I emphasize, a wholly negative thing—we have just come to a point in our social lives, in human history even, that we cannot separate the idea of human society from the ordaining forces of a gatekeeper or a farmer. We can’t conceive of a world without a CoC. We can, however, live in a world with a CoC—where the ordaining force is not a single entity but the entirety of entities with the exchange of material delegated by capital. We are bound by society, but that is a limit of human connection and evolution—we were meant to have society, to have connections, but not ones curtailed by an artificial scarcity of connection. Given a more liberated field of connection, one without internal limits, human society could delegate itself (by its exchange of material, and thus of ideas) just fine.
But first, we need to see beyond the CoC.