Sunday, September 19, 2010

drones of disaster (2): eco-erotics perverted

"A million technocrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it." (Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

The playful imitation of nature relates to nature without dominating it: mimesis, sublated in the forms and impulses of art, performs the promise of nature’s liberation. This idea is what Benjamin and Adorno tried to rescue from Romantic aesthetics. Adorno retains mimesis as an irreducible moment of play within negative dialectics, or thinking rigorously oriented toward non-identity. Mimesis becomes a principle guiding rigorous imagination, that attentive immersion in non-conceptuals, singularities and particulars that releases the social truth of objects without bombing and gassing them.

If astonishment at nature inspired early science, its modernist form, struggling to liberate thought from superstition, aimed to repress all traces of play within its own methods. Under capital, mimesis returns as one more means of domination. The dragon-slayers went to work for the dragons, and dragonflies droned airborne from the labs of engineers.

Over the skies of the walled border with Mexico no less than in the Afghan mountains and flooded valleys of Pakistan, we are seeing where this leads. The war machine has let slip its dreaming of bee-sized killer drones, and already some years have passed since we heard tell of strange dragonflies shadowing antiwar demonstrations. Knowing well how the Pentagon takes its dreams for reality, we can feel the chill in the warming air.

And as always, every leap in domination is sold to us as its opposite. In the aftermath of Hiroshima, the US state used the promise of the “peace atom” to mystify the terror of the “war atom.”

All these processes are legible in the short and glowing report that appeared on a remarkable website called TerraDaily (“news about planet earth”). It is re-posted in full above, minus the ads by Google. Are you worried about the biosphere? Have you been sensitized to the global threat? Be reassured, rare and gifted minds are at work at Harvard and Los Alamos. This little gadget, miracle of nano-science, epitomizes the good micro-robotics. This is “research on track to evolve into insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, such as collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.” Don’t be alarmed that the sponsor of this project and employer of the "journalist" is the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Science is humane, after all; it will rescue us from hazardous environments, whether or not it was instrumental in producing them in the first place.

Everything about this report betrays the perverting of eco-erotics, the channeling capture of the legitimate human longing to be reconciled with exploited and dominated nature. Militarized and capitalized, science forfeits its notion of truth as liberation; in its place is the correspondence between the means and end of domination. But the untruth of antagonism, which the given production produces at every level, remains the glaring truth about the global social process. In that process, nature is no less commodified and exploited than labor power, and with reverberations that are no less planetary. But even perverted, mimesis preserves a promise of reconciliation – freedom, sensual happiness and the liberation of inner and outer nature.

But only as a promise. Its realization is the real struggle from below.

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