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The Dialectic of Transformation: On the Merits and Dangers of Defiance June 15, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics, Transhumanism.

Over at IEETMaria Konovalenko writes against aging with characteristic transhumanist élan. Such enthusiastic rejection of limits serves as the basis for my continued affiliation with the movement. However, Konovalenko argument simultaneously raises perennial questions about to navigate a world of horrors and overwhelming diversity. Although I’m sympathetic to the strident anti-aging stance and consider it especially useful as a corrective to hegemonic discourse on the subject, the construction of aging as abhorrent holds worrying implications for the millions coded as old or elderly – especially coming a normatively attractive young person who mentions beauty. Konovalenko derides Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation’s promotion of adaptation and demands total victory over senescence, but what does mean in the present?

As rejuvenation therapy remains fantasy at least for the moment, emphasis on the visceral unpleasantness of getting older may only function to reiterate the cult of youth and discourage folks experiencing aging. Even assuming senescence as objectivity intolerable – a proposition I reject – adaptation has obvious practical utility. I agree with Konovalenko’s critique of mainstream gerontology as inimical to life extension and thesis we need to make our goals clear, but this doesn’t have to entail intensified agism or a denunciation of the ways people thrive despite degeneration. Nor does the anti-aging program require totalizing claims against our existing biology. I recognize the aesthetic appeal of so-called natural cycle and honor folks who assert their preference for its maintenance. I don’t get this position on the emotional level any more than I grasp the drive to reproduce, but pluralism means mutual respect. I recommend an anti-aging campaign based on our desire for health and vigor rather than the description of senescence as a demon and its advocates as insane.

This dynamic resembles the conundrum I consistently face in regards to revolutionary rhetoric and strategy, albeit with notable differences. Confrontation, agitation, and negativity grab attention and prove exhilarating, yet conflict with the structure of the society I want to see and potentially lead to self-righteous insularity as well as paralyzing depression. Though smashing the state and capital looks more plausible than a fountain of youth, berating folks for doing what they can to be conformable within the system contains related problems. On the other hand, adapting to this oppressive order directly and concretely bolsters it while adapting to aging at worst hinders rejuvenation research. Caustically calling out complicity remains core radical tactic that I endorse even as I wish to use it judiciously.

Through criticism of Pride here in Albuquerque, I’m currently expressing the heartbreaking rage I feel toward the mainstream LGBT movement. While I rarely personally gravitate toward the in-your-face antagonistic style stereotypically associated with anarchism, here I feel drawn to making trouble without apology. Your gay marriage does nothing for me. If anything, the quest for respectability turns me into even more of a monster by distinguishing us bad queers from good homonormative subjects. Gay consumerism supports capitalism and my economic marginality. Your rainbow-colored nationalism perpetuates imperialism and settler colonialism, making my dreams of freedom and equality impossible. While we might be able to work together, we’re not on the same side now and you’re not my ally.

We’ll see how it works out.



1. Dale Carrico - June 15, 2012

Uh, death denialism as Pride? I think there is literally no more complacent and conformist attitude than the consumer crapitalist denial of death. And as we know from Becker, from denial of death it is often but a hop skip and a jump away from death dealing. The more hyperbolic and assertive variations in which transhumanoids engage merely assure them more anxious and distracted and deranged death-in-life (not to mention highly exploitable credulity) before the inevitable arrival of death itself than your common or garden variety infantile denialist.

2. Summerspeaker - June 16, 2012

To clarify, I compare death denialism to the radical criticism of Pride. While I respect its revolutionary origins, the event has become a state and corporate lovefest.

Dale Carrico - June 16, 2012

Yeah, Pride completely grosses me out, too. But I honestly cannot think of any more insistent corporate-militarist lovefest (although love isn’t quite the word to describe the repressive sublimation and ritual humiliation involved) than the transhumanist DARPA-headed techno-fetishizing consumer-utopians. You seriously need to pick better friends.

Summerspeaker - June 16, 2012

Another clarification: I’m not fans of or friends with that faction of the movement, with the possible exception of Hank and Michael (I’m unsure where Rachel fits in). But enmity describes those relationship as well if not better. XFF 2011 kept me entertained but instilled little desire to seek out specifically futurist spaces.

As you know but perhaps deny or work around, various transhumanists espouse radical politics adamantly opposed to capitalism and the military. The current poll over at IEET has 10% identifying as anarchist and 8% as libertarian socialist. Similarly, I’ve met many revolutionaries who sympathize with or endorse transhumanism in the broad sense.

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