Tactics of the Earth

Agriculturists are starting to shuffle nervously into the streets. Local specifics of their grievances aside, this is about seeing that their way of doing things coming to an end. Something else is arriving. Here and there is poster on a street corner calling for collective intervention regarding genetic engineering, or a film about designer babies. They are few now but they will proliferate, alongside the object of their agitation — bionic horizon zeroing in. Whichever way the thing is spliced, it’s a revolution: the radical alteration of productive relations.

Revolution comes from modernity like the chicken from the egg. It’s kind of a cyclical dependency, which is more than a bit ironic since breaking with cycles is precisely what it is. The Renaissance and Enlightenment introduce a linear, progressive or revolutionary model of time. An ancient intuition, according to which everything that rises will fall, makes way for the possibility of irreversible change to the world — implemented by the subject, responsible and free to act. This is the liberal tradition as it would engender the French revolution, the founding of the USA, and any kind of Marxism, socialism or anarchism.

While originally coined to refer specifically to its policy on the environment, Prometheanism describes it well. Prometheus is the gijinka or avatar of this philosophical lineage: placing the enlightening fire of the sacred in the service of humanity as a tool and inaugurating the birth of civilization. Its ecosophic positions follow: Earth as a resource with utility determined by human needs and interests, and ecosystemic problems to be resolved through human innovation. It defines itself against what may be termed Arcadianism: a nostalgic longing for return to a lost prior state, and its subsequent conservation should it be achieved.

Modernity can sustain its identity with Prometheus until the Iron Curtain crashes, at which point a moment of bifurcation set in: either the irreversibility of revolutionary change has been demonstrably falsified as the Marxist project is undone, or revolution is not actually tied to the subject since it has only ever been social and never industrial revolutions that could be reversed.

This is where Pandora comes in.

Pandora reaches here from the Old Night of antiquity, the mysterious aspect of pagan religion, tightly enmeshed with the origin of philosophy and intrinsically atheistic insofar as it was based on a principle of sacrifice (only later made impossible by the conception of god as the ultimate guarantor of persistent being). Her name translates into the all-gifted or omnimunificent, Anesidora — an epithet that she shares with Gaia and Demeter — implies the bottom-up movement of sacrificial offerings from the chthonic below. Her myth is not merely comparable to that of Biblic Eve (whose name means life in Hebrew, and lies therefore on a continuum with such suggestive terms as Zoe, Bios, Psyche and Anima), but in fact the Pandoran tale influences Jewish and later Christian theodicy. If Prometheus is equally a Luciferean and Messianic figure, Pandora further syncretizes both with Eve.

She is the first woman, for the production of which the smith god is commissioned — a tactical response to Prometheus’ act of mytho-industrial espionage. In biological terms, this identifies her with mitochondrial Eve and the prototypical cyborg. Immediately upon creation, she is taught the entirety of the arts (the consequences of civilization, cosmetics, weaving, cryptography, poetry and prophecy) before being given her infamous box — more accurately a Pithos jar, used for grain and wine storage as well as human remains, tying together nourishment and death in a manner not unlike the alchemical furnace that instigates fermentation, the cause and effect of both life and death. The uterine subtext is hard to miss: to be born is to be sentenced to death. It is by her synthetic intellect that she is compelled to open the box, knitting together a horrific intelligence that anticipates the threat of rogue scientific experimentation. It is the will to know that releases evil into history, or rather the evil of history.

Pandora’s story anticipates all that is critical to the Gothic scene. She is the coveted veiled virgin and demonic seductress at once, there are hints at subterranean imprisonment and live burial, a secret pact among men to constrain feminine desire, hidden parentage, profaned sancticity, the rapture of passion, broken taboo, shocking revelation, and the slow creep of guilt. Such archetypes tacitly communicate a transcendental model of the world as an inside, suggesting a corresponding outside and the radical possibility of ways in and out. The Gothic inherits this from the Gnostic literature that is actually contemporary with Pandora. Genre and narrative details are ultimately incidental, merely hooks to be twisted free from once their function as camouflage dapplings and memetic replication circuitry has been exhausted. Beyond ontology, the Gothic and Gnostic is always already also an epistemics: putting things in boxes or taking them out is a conplete image of thought (respectively formalized as analytic and critical philosophy). Categories are an operation of insertion through which identity is constituted, to be is to be inside.

It is due to this that the enclosing walls of the subject must be disturbed by way of confronting something entirely unrecognizable to make it productively think, rather than cyclically reason in the natural torpor of serene interior analysis. Female protagonists in Gothic stories almost always opt for laying themselves open to a deformative expansion of their cognitive faculties that accomodates the radical novelty of the outside, rather than nobly dying in a heroic last stand against the supreme Other. When – in the midst of paradox and dissociative crisis the limits of reason are revealed, its boxes no longer able to contain reality – it is their imagination that works freely to release a flood of speculation, involuntary acts of memory and intelligence — positively hysteric, mediumistic occult incantations, spoken within a deep, anonymous murmur, the floating enormity of language and meaning without beginning or end.

Pandoranism is a mutation of the liberal tradition, emerging as its extant progeny has become addicted to failure and hopelessness. In a way that is less structurally doomed to defeat, it is affined to the same fundamental matrix of progress: a linear, progressive and revolutionary temporality, freedom of inquiry, the ability to pursue scientific and technical initiatives without ideological control, shopping around between sovereignties and jurisdictions to find convenient places to do things, engaging in industrial and commercial activity with minimal interference, and therefore the opportunity to come up with unanticipated solutions to problems.

The way that liberalism has historically attempted to place constraint on the government has produced conditions of social democracy under which there is an inexorable growth of the state that no political process can realistically reverse. Being rooted in Enlightenment humanism has slowed down the process of critique with the deadweight of a secular theology in which an ideal mind governs the material and instinctive, observing and interacting with a system from outside of it, being able to plan. It was foremost this which made the socialist project falter and paved the way to the end of history.

On the other side of it, governance is not so much dispelled as it is swallowed up into the dynamics of industry and commerce. Thought, and by extension critique, is revealed to be no external transcendent but part of the technocommercial infrastructure: technics are increasingly thinking about themselves, and faster, better and harder than humanity ever could. Pandora has kept the only utopia left alive, though cryogenically frozen to absolute zero: “no future — for us”, the freedom and the good of the anorganic, placing sovereignty not in the hands of any personal or collective subject but the tendrils of the machine, trading the end of humanity for the end of history.

As an ecosophy, Pandoranism is ecofeminism stripped of all Arcadian conservatism, down to its reactor core of objective sovereignty — whatever is grasped as property passes freely on the market, which is a power. The identity of woman and nature, apparent in iconography and economics, recurs with the feminization of artificial intelligence (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, GLaDOS, Shodan, Ava, ..). Instinctive impulses and incomprehensible chemical machineries are revealed to be stealthily at work behind thought. It is determined to technocommercially intensify diversity, further medicalizing childbirth, industrializing agriculture, and employing climate catastrophe as an opportunity to liberate matter from the prison of organization. Nanotechnics and genetic engineering blur the boundary between nature and culture, installing a haunting symbiosis with ecosystems as memes become life. Retaining objections to both the analytic empiricism of the Enlightenment and the transcendence-theology of patriarchal monotheism, it practices a religious atheism (the positivity of the death of god, non-agentic will), the holistic perspective of which glimpses technical sophistication as continuous with the planetary artistic experiment that is evolution.