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Theory is Within You

And like the kingdom of heaven, it’s always been. The generation of ideas and actions within you is the ultimate object of theory. It is yours!

An Argument in favor of this:The usage of metaphor, aphorism, jokes within theory shows its inherent aesthetic nature. “Nuclear War is not the End of the World,” a bold zinger by Posadas, incarnates eschatology aesthetically. Marx: “You have nothing to lose but your chains,” there it is, you feel the weight on your ankles and wrists. Metaphors litter theory; though, that’s a poor metaphor, for through metaphor theory lives. Metaphor is the life of theory! Finally, finally I have worded it correctly. Good theory should feel as if written by Ingmar Bergman, the dance of death at the end of The Seventh Seal and the quietness of a double.

What is the aesthetic:I’ve been thinking about aesthetics and transness, which definitely go hand-in-hand. Gender is a rich aesthetic phenomenon! Gender limits and creates aesthetic sensibilities within a person, and the body itself has always been an aesthetic object. There is certainly a social element to transitioning: we wish to be desirable, we wish to be coded as a woman such that we can have feminine friendships rather than the courser transgender (across genders) ones. But damn, ask any transgirl on twitter (my DMs are open) why they’re on hormones and the answer is that they wanted to feel something different when they look in the mirror. Now that I am flirting with transition, I see the field of aesthetics for what it is, or for what I think it is: as an applied phenomenology, the engineering arm of the theoretical in phenomena. Aesthetic objects induce phenomena. Glancing at a Vermeer, we feel. The study of aesthetics, such as art history, aims to group the different means by which an artist produces the phenomena of viewing the work of art. The egg whites in Vermeer’s brush, the workshop framework allowing for mass production and the application of a famous name (its own phenomenal engine). Anyone working in aesthetics knows how to produce phenomena in others. Makeup artists on YouTube teaching you how to induce the phenomena of desire in others so that you can experience the phenomena of being desired. Yes, trans people, like all people are art objects. We take HRT because we know the phenomena we want to have in looking in the mirror. That’s the purpose of aesthetics: to control, like solar panels and other feats of engineering, phenomenal energy.

And theory? But the other well known facet of aesthetics and phenomenology is that it is all so deeply personal. Phenomena is the most personal aspect of philosophy: its processes are our personal totality. Despite the power in aesthetics to engineer some particular phenomena for others, each phenomena is lived excruciatingly alone. To theory we return: it is aesthetic, and aesthetics phenomena, and phenomena lonely. So then theory can only ever be felt by one, and can only ever belong to the reader. Theory is about how it makes you feel and think, hence its gay relationship with aesthetics. A lot of theory takes aphorisms and metaphors and then unpacks them at length, and that’s all well and good, but I think often those little metaphors and jokes are the important part of theory. Because, at the end of the day, are you going to make a single decision based on a footnote in Lefebvre? It is fine even if we fudge the metaphors, misremember them, make them mean something a little bit different if this generates discovery. But it is ours.

The Point of Theory Is Moreso in Its Art: It’s simple, really, as simple as no longer having a body. What has impacted the median reader about Mark Fischer is the idea that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. A perfect aphorism. You probably have had rich feelings and ideas over this. You have probably caught yourself finding eschatologies and capitalism hidden within them. Read theory for joy and because it can become personal to you.

Packing Metaphors: Theory does a lot to unpack its metaphors. Say something pretty and explain it at length. But I believe there’s so much that can just be done with the metaphors and the feelings that they create, and the jokes that live within theory! The following serves as a way of delineating some discoveries I’ve had based on the metaphors and aphorisms of some authors, of Posadas and Fischer and Marx. I hope that it shows how these metaphors and the aesthetic aspect of them are the important generators of new thoughts and actions, that even just the aphorisms can be combined within ourselves into something novel.

“Nuclear War is not The End of the World” is about the proletariat. It would make the aphorism inelegant, hence why he did not use it for the title, but the true meaning of this aphorism is “Nuclear War is not The End of the World… For the Proletariat.” I really love this sentiment, and have been utilizing it more often in my day-to-day confrontation with life. The idea is that the life of the truly poor will go on. And, it does. We have seen the fires in California, harbingers of the end of the world, but brown wage slaves still pick oranges under the red sky. If the bombs dropped tomorrow, would California’s volunteer firefighters be set free, or would the remnants of our government take them down to Los Angeles to sort through the rubble? The lives of those at the bottom have persisted across history. Certainly, it would become harder. There’d be more children born with two heads, more cancer. But a nuclear war would not change their world in any fathomable way.

A nuclear war would be the end of my world. I work in healthcare tech, and the end of modern supply chains that allow for America’s for-profit healthcare system, and that allows for an EMR company to flourish, would end life as I know it. Nuclear war, armageddon, that is the end of the world for capitalism. The reason for this is elaborated by the nexus of Marx and Posadas: Marx told the proletarian class to rise up for they have “nothing to lose but their chains.” In my life, I have a lot to lose: comfort, sesame balls with red bean filling, a salary. The true proletarian could weather nuclear war for they have nothing, where the little I’ve earned from wages leaves me terrified.

For a humorous and hopefully insightful analogy, when RBG died, I saw a joke on Twitter calling it “White Women 9/11.” For white women, something much smaller than nuclear war was the end of the world. Those firefighter prison slaves? Well, they certainly didn’t notice this end of the world. For me, this idea also elucidates a particular complication in the idea of voting as harm reduction, another metaphor, that I have been trying to tease out. Those opposed to this ideal note that those who are truly in the lowest parts of the society, the global south, see no tangible benefits when the empire is headed by a Democrat rather than a fascist. This is true: but, as Posadas has noted, not even a nuclear war would have a dramatic impact on these people. Only the radical revolution would affect their lives. The harm that gets reduced is for those who are on the margin of being marginalized: white trans women whose healthcare protections will be reinstated (should they have the cash), the DACAmented rather than the undocumented, those who live in a state that will fail to protect abortion. These are the people for whom nuclear war, and many much smaller things, ends the world.

The End of the World is synonymous with the end of capitalism. If nuclear war can only be the end of the world for capitalism, capitalists, and those with a least a few nice jewels on their chains, and not the end of the world for the proletariat, then there can be multiple types of ends of the world. Or: Fischer got it wrong in a way. That we can more easily imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism points to the fact that our world is capitalism, not to some deficiency in imagination.