What Is Survival Mode?

Part One: The What and Is

When we wonder what any thing is, which is the famous ‘philosophical’ activity, actually caution is recommended. Why? It’s because of this amazing dynamic: asking whether or how something exists is also believing or presuming (at least for the moment) that it does exist. The dynamic is captured somewhat by the italicized ‘is’ within the first sentence above, in the phrase ‘what any thing is’: 

    • stress on the ‘what’ would seem to privilege the ephemeral, material characteristics of the thing

    • stress on the ‘is’ puts our attention upon the essence of its existence, or the primordial aspect of existing in the first place

So, before we leap into a critical discussion about this questionable, so-called phenomenon, ‘survival mode’, we probably should make sure we’re not referring to a chimera, not wasting our attention on the nonexistent. 

Deconstructing the ‘What’ Part

The preliminary, existential belief-pattern baked into a ‘What is _?’ question may be only a notion, or a hypothesis that the named referent exists. Yet any such believing invests provisional existence in that thing (and so did naming it). This maneuver allows for the thought-process that seeks out the probable status and traits of the thing (its ‘what’-characteristics). This is a miraculous but peculiar mental move that the mind performs all of the time – without us necessarily being conscious of it. 

Perhaps, to think about existence we must grant existence. 

Even more interesting, this kind of thinking grants both the preliminary existence of the imagined, named thing in question, and, in so doing it implicitly grants reality to existing itself. Conceiving the immanence of Existence is the very DNA, so to speak, for the total phenomenon of world. And with that phenomenon, which grows variegated fast, the existential and phenomenological plot thickens considerably.

‘What Is _?’ Questions Do Way More Than Name a Thing

So, let’s check: is ‘survival mode’ a real experience in consciousness, therefore an actual phenomenon, something you and me know about directly? – or, is it a psychiatrist’s abstraction? – a sociologist’s hypothesis? – a comedian’s joke?

At this point, it would help to have the basic, lexical, and figurative meanings of ‘survival mode’ restated, unpacked, characterized, maybe along these lines:

State of desperation. Struggle to live. ‘Working poor.’ ‘Starvation wages.’ ‘Flight or fight.’ ‘Hand to mouth.’ The poverty trap. Subsistence-myopia. 

If we now have an inkling of what is meant by this idiom, survival mode, and, we feel confident that it indeed is a real, lived phenomenon, then it’s fair to ask forthrightly what it is – and then of course, why would anyone care about it?

Looking Beyond What Toward Is

Given the numerous and various ways to quantify and qualify survival mode – the most basic, socio-economic phenomenon itself – it seems safe to go ahead and assume all the minutia of its manifestations in our lives as Americans during the pandemic, added to all the other disasters, in order to gauge its relative proportions as a socio-cultural phenomenon.

This compounded disastrousness is why it seems useful to just summarize it all as The Disaster, which also includes suffering the cruelty of unsound leadership.

The brunt experience of survival mode (food insecurity, for instance) aligns more or less with catastrophic poverty – particularly the type that is brought on by getting dumped by employers, or, losing the sort of work that is dependent upon stable economic conditions (such as the sprawling Hospitality sector). 

Closer to the Real

So, survival mode is part and parcel, especially right now, with the disastrous public policy currently governing our norms, and expectations, of work, mainly. On that basis, we might say that for any American to suffer survival mode (which also includes vicious psychological symptoms) just exposes empirically, if you like, a disaster for the entire society. Worse, it is arguably an unnecessary and avoidable disaster, just the collateral damage from militant corporate lobbying and inhumane public policies. 

The most cynical gaze at this predicament might even guess that some corporations are conditioned to treat cheap labor and the missing mandate for workers’ rights as part of their rightful spoils from lobbying so damn hard, and a valuable part of their ROI from lobbying in the first place. This kind of social abuse has become a norm – which is a grave problem.

From an aerial position, this scenario of a society desensitized toward the experience and even the existence of survival mode – where privileged classes actually live off the labors and misfortune of the ‘have-not’s – is plainly cannibalistic in terms of the human spirit.

Yet in order to reach the essence of the phenomenon, beyond the emotions attached to it or its political sphere, let’s appreciate its complexity but then bracket it all out. The entire empirical dimension of poverty and of survival mode can be presumed, and just kept in stasis off to the side for the moment.

Digging Deeper

Finally, we’re approaching the questions of how and why a society could harbor and accept the phenomenon of survival mode – which is a social crisis when seen clearly – in which underprivileged people experience material poverty and impaired, worsening health (even while indentured by ‘jobs’). 

No honest humanist could get too familiar with this phenomenon, let alone accept it – and again, it helps to detach and see it from above, which can de-familiarize it. What is the root phenomenon? – and, the essence of that root? For example, is the root phenomenon of survival mode simply fear (for all involved, even the oppressors)? Is it helpful to think of the essence of fear as a lack of confidence rather than in terms of any particular oppression, of which to be fearful?

Let’s propose that the essence of this problem is not a flaw in people’s natural curiosities, or a lack of willingness to be affluent enough to follow their real interests in life. Let’s propose that the problem is not that ‘poor’ people can’t manage cash, or that they are weak humans who can't deserve much. Functionally, the problem of survival mode lies in the exclusion of certain people by others who have more power (too much for the underprivileged to overcome). And the essence of that exclusion is getting misnamed and misidentified (as ‘workers’) and segregated as such, in order to be held back, separated from the opportunities that the rich provide for themselves and take for granted — according to a double standard.

A basic rationale of this oppression is the infantilization of people who happen not to possess much money: they are blamed for immaturity, for being uneducated, assumed irresponsible or dumb, not ambitious or desirous enough for profits (‘under-achievers’ within Capitalism) – all of which uses bogus slanders to cover up the real conditions of systemic, 'trap'-like poverty.

Removing our personal filters of interpretation, past memories, emotional reactions, and incomplete knowledge exposes more and more of the is-ness, and less of the empirical facticity of a thing’s phenomenal existence. And what we’ve been proposing is that this facticity stems from existing itself, anyway, in the universal sense, rather than particular reasons for how and why it could manifest locally and uniquely – which involves an endless sea of data.

Part Two: Existential Confidence


The Second Western Enlightenment

"Sea got angry" by gliak00 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
This may sound naive, but: Are we starting to experience the logical and ethical limitations of the first wave of Humanism? – boundaries exposed by this present manifestation of The Disaster? Has our era reached the point at which inherited Humanistic values cease being able to guide us fully, through the unprecedented and extraordinarily destabilizing cultural forces that we face today? 

Those forces include:

    • disjointing of rational compensation from work and labor
    • loss of the social understanding of a classical livelihood or Craft
    • dwindling of mainstream adult education and training
    • data sciences that analyze and predict human responses
    • AI learning to replace human workers and service sectors
    • the need for a science of consciousness
    • absence of an acceptable secular concept of Beingness

Let’s go ahead and presume that this argument has won: we’ve reached the limits of the effectiveness of the initial Western Enlightenment to inspire us to be evolved and good beings. 

That represents a problem, since society lacks comparable kinds of ethical cohesion and moral grounding – however, the diagnosis above also presents an opportunity. We have reached the threshold of transitions into new social logic and global identity patterns that have been in the works for a long time. Our generations are participating now (whether consciously or not) in the distributed, shared, contributed overhaul of Western ethical value systems and moral institutions – necessitated particularly by information and communications technologies.

"robots" by jmorgan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.These forces call for updates to Humanism and to the Western Enlightenment: most importantly, these will take into account the ‘transhumanism’ that is implicit in the problem of full or strong Artificial Intelligence (passing the ‘singularity’ after which it can teach itself, then achieving exponential dominance over all electronically-mediated ecosystems, including power sources and grids). (It’s pretty much Terminator.)

There are countless other contemporary challenges. Yet in this fairly essential set above, we can see a common phenomenal thread. The common thread is work, and particularly the intimate linkage that should exist between work and dignity – that is, according to our inherited Western Enlightenment values, democratic practices, and social policies – the crowing glory of which is our majestic concept of Human Rights. 

Work Is Our Common Humanity

Everyone understands what work is, regardless of whether one is a ‘worker’, or, one has found ways to avoid work by passing it off to others. At some level, even the most pampered of humans must do some kind of work for oneself (even, if only the exertion required to order others to do something in a certain way). Indeed, work-masters often know more about work and its business value than their wage-workers.

Of course, there are infinite variations on the theme of work in human worlds, and infinite experiences of this phenomenon. But, there is also a much subtler, essential consciousness rooted in our primordial concepts and the meanings referred to by the words ‘work’ and ‘labor’. This conceptual region is directly and necessarily connected with the phenomenality of doing, and doership, and therefore ideology. 

Since we’re right now surveying the broad significance of work, it is apropos to consider also the relation between working (as a central type of doing) and choice, will, freedom, intention, effectiveness, and so on – which always has formed one of the core question-areas for Philosophy. As you can see, the question of work in toto is philosophically interesting – in the extreme.

The Paradox of Doing a Philosophy of Work

I would rather not work on this kind of ethical philosophy. That’s because I do not think that work in the primordial sense – understood organically by every child who has passed through the Mirror Stage (at about eighteen months) – presents any problem, intrinsically. It is only work that is encumbered and threatened by the disruptions of chance circumstances (like birth defects), or the greed/cruelty of other humans’ ideologies, which calls for remediation as a problem to be solved. What we have in the phenomenology of work is an epic, historical, socio-cultural problem.

Without the pressing urgency of the contemporary problem of work before us, in other words, I would naturally gravitate to questions of constitutive ontology (Beingness) and the phenomenality of technology. I would rather not do Philosophy-work on work, but I find that it is necessary. 

This problem is on an evolutionary order, and is of the highest practical importance, which means that it is preeminently relevant for us, the people living today. Let’s also reflect very briefly for context upon the connection between working class life (hardship, in a word) and the public status quo constructed largely by the financial and consumerism communities (where ‘communities’ is a euphemism).

The Most Useful Enlightenment

What would be more useful to the most people than having more leisure (along with the financial security that allows them to enjoy it)? 

Philosophy at the moment has the responsibility to doubt and inquire into the hegemony of the perennial lie that in America people face a status quo of scarcity and danger that is just part of life in our cruel world (. . . meanwhile, employers provide themselves with abundance and relative safety by relying upon the public’s wealth). For example, Philosophy must ask:

Can you imagine if people were enabled and encouraged to stay home or go to their own workspace, every day, to do their own forms of livelihood-work, rather than providing mere cheap labor for the rich? – such that, people actually could be with their children, parents, spouses most of the time, the way it should be?

Can you imagine if all of the petty retail properties and malls were freed up by public policy ushering most of that non-essential business online – and then, all of those properties, as it were, could be transformed into civic parks, social services, daycare, recreation facilities, educational spaces, and housing? (Can you imagine ‘housing’ actually meaning affordable shelter?)

News flash: the public is wealthy already. Our society produces enough resources and wealth for all to live abundant, happier lives right now, not in some socialist fantasy.

News flash: the terrible scarcity doesn’t exist. Our civilization has won. It has been conquering the environment, and automating enough work already, so we now observe that the only reason people are expected to ‘work hard’ and race to ‘get ahead’ is to provide the rich with exponential returns on their investments. 

That’s right: most work is, from the standpoint of most people, contrived entirely to make more money for the owning and investing classes. Most work (especially the kinds that people must force themselves to do) is unnecessary, and therefore it necessarily wastes people’s life-time. 

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

– Buckminster Fuller quoted by, ‘The New York Magazine Environmental Teach-In’ by Elizabeth Barlow in New York Magazine (30 March 1970), p. 30.

A skeptic may ask doubtfully about this ‘financial security’, and might remark that it’s a fantasy in this hard world! And the philosopher could reply that it’s not necessarily fantastical to think that the general public can organize its own financial system, and guarantee a basic living expenses budget, as well as healthcare, child care, and educational resources for each citizen – enjoy, in others words, and put to good use a fraction of the ‘welfare for the rich’, those government subsidies and tax loopholes that the rich arrange in order to legally steal from the public. 

The Most Important Thing Is …

Perhaps the the most important element that sets apart this Enlightenment, our Enlightenment, from the historic first one that inspired the American Revolution and the US Constitution is this: 

Knowledge of facts, plans, and we-should-isms that might form the mental litany of a ‘Second Enlightenment’, whatever they may be, are not enough. This time, the flowering of understanding registers throughout society (yet in each case uniquely) as becoming enlightened: the focus now is on direct experience of the Enlightenment by everyone.

Anything referring to the experience of the entire public might on the face of things seem dubious or even suspicious, in our era rife with conspiracy fantasies ‘going viral’. In this case, ‘Enlightenment’ means simply a greater consciousness of our shared Humanity, which could manifest as a reigning social consensus based primarily upon our common Humanism – which supersedes any other point of difference and yet allows our interesting differences to be beautiful. 


Imagination Becoming Real

BOULDER, CO – I mention the following, for what it’s worth, as another angle on the problem of work, this time making use of an exposé of my own case. I want to be upfront about the fact that using details of my own story is intended to enliven creativity for readers, rather than just to valorize my own approach to The Disaster.

I think that the primary objection to any suggestion here that people must be proactive about re-imagining their livelihoods is that it’s a message to a privileged minority. People forced to inch through car lines for emergency relief packages are not able to think about livelihood, not until the basic needs of their families are covered. We all can understand that. Maybe we should make a disclaimer like:
‘For those who find themselves in the position of being restricted to the home with enough food, and free time . . .’

A person may seem self-centered and narcissistic to oneself, isolated, when allowing thoughts about securing a real livelihood now, of all times. However, I believe that for the good of the social sphere and shared infrastructure that we will retrieve and repopulate, as many people as possible would do well to bite the bullet now, and re-imagine their lives right away, posthaste. Survival requires imagination.

In the prior post about the Audience for ideas like that, we were careful to lay out the basic circumstances or demographics that I share with some readers, which include financial instability and threatened means of income during The Disaster.

Workplace hell: remote employees
maneuvering robotic video-avatars.
Anyway, the Workplace itself, writ large, already has changed forever; meanwhile the dastardly duo of The Disaster & ‘Disaster Capitalism’ is busily transfiguring and contorting its ‘wage-slavery’ sectors (ie, at least, what most humans experience as un-gainful employment) – and doubtless it’s happening now, as you read this, in order to foist the new dehumanizing regimes upon society as soon as our shelter-in-place orders lift.

Is that just being cynical? The rapid vaporization of millions of jobs to robotics and Artificial Intelligence, the very phenomenon of high-tech downsizing that Yang is warning us about, has received in the form of Covid-19 its perfect storm; please make no mistake about that.

A Humble Case Study

During this strange liminal zone we know as shelter-in-place, I have become convinced that my actual job and real work in life – a ‘livelihood’ – is philosophical activity, and, doing something invented that I call existential journalism, and of course practicing a few Arts. More precisely, in terms of the service to society this livelihood can contribute, its activities are creating, curating, and sharing philosophical experiences

But, that’s pie in the sky unless one’s daily experience changes accordingly with any such conviction.

During the period when, somewhat outlandishly, society has been ordered to stay home, and the majority barred from working (myself in that crowd), I just have taken the initiative, taken the bull by the horns – in a performance-arty way – by choosing myself for the ‘position’ I always have wanted. I finally realized this would be within reach only once given to myself.

Rather than a delusion, this conviction – ie, ‘my social, public role is philosopher-artist’ – has been bolstered by the way I have found myself using March’s weird, morbid flurry of days by acting as if I am a ‘nonattached’ philosopher, like a ronin, and then:

    • setting up shop online in that way,
    • writing from that point of view,
    • making accompanying videos,
    • recording myself reciting blog posts,
    • drawing in colored inks for the first time,
    • writing one-page stories,
    • recording myself reciting the stories,
    • organizing crowdfunding for all of these activities.

I have coped with The Disaster, at home, by doing all of the things that survival mode did not permit (that having been a figurative idiom, compared to its literalism now).

I have suspected for some time that to do what I wanted to do (finally and irreversibly launch into bonafide livelihood) would require at least several weeks off, and not for a vacation, but for the dynamic, creative leisure in which to reach escape velocity.

Believe me, I have never wished that a global plague, The Disaster, would isolate me at home for that amount of time, but this is what has happened. Focusing – when Death rides throughout the lands, and tens of thousands are dying – focusing despite a chronic underlying terror, is itself a philosophical praxis. It is an exercise straight out of the Stoics’ playbook, actually, especially because in Classical Antiquity plagues were less surprising than they are to us Postmoderns.
A heightened sense of urgency to pursue what is most important is the gift of greater awareness and respect for Death.

To Be a Philosopher

This soul-work, a real livelihood that includes income, is what I have playfully re-imagined by giving myself the role of inaugural Director for a new think-tank, called the ‘Philosophical Intelligence Agency’, which is a pretend think-tank for the moment. The P-I-A is serious play, insofar as imaginary things tend to become Real. I’m crowdfunding the P-I-A.

My official role assignment as
Director of P-I-A
There is performance art involved here, both privately in my solitary bedroom-world, yet online as well whenever I share the media output mentioned above. I have enjoyed, for example, ironing dress slacks and shirts, relearning the Double Windsor, then writing in costume (and shooting videos).

I expect that everyone who held a job or filled a professional position will need to relearn how to act like their former employee-selves at some point, because it will feel horribly awkward when returning to workplaces in the midst of The Disaster, still in its shadow (likely for the rest of the year), with people missing because they died.

I figured, one might as well relearn an entirely new, ideal livelihood on the heels of this aporetic moment, tragic as it is. Wouldn’t that be better than refreshing one’s former programming and training (faded away to some extent during shelter-in-place), which was required to be an employee, or a ‘position’-holder, rather than an invigorated, self-directed, contented human being?

The question: can someone reverse-engineer authentic livelihood during The Disaster, from pure imagination – use shelter-in-place to launch into a post-National-Emergency lifestyle that is entrepreneurial – and perhaps even employ crowdfunding?

I’ll tell ya how it goes!


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Thinking Over a Few Days of Survival & Return

11 April 2020

BOULDER, CO – We were reminded this morning that there are two more weeks of shelter-in-place ahead. Being somebody privileged-enough to be out of work and hunkered down at home – at the same time financially insecure and dependent upon the federal stimulus – is fraught by a mix of gratitude and empathic horror about the thousands of fellow human beings dying on a daily basis out there.

For anyone with strong hermetic tendencies (but not necessarily anti-social), the shelter-in-place order and shutdown of the prior economic system does have the silver lining of permitting a time to think without feeling one is getting lapped by the unnecessarily frenetic, desperate pace of Late Capitalism out there. It has all stopped out there. So what’s in here is relatively amplified, more important now. I occupy only a basement bedroom privately, a small space itself shared with two dogs, which has become our material world.

(Another day passes quickly.)


12 April 2020

Today, shelter-in-place itself has been buried by over a foot of fresh, spring snow, unceasing. It was a day that passed in a flurry although the experiences it contained had felt drawn-out in those moments – which I noticed when checking the clock at five. The tension between waiting during this period, feeling endangered, and yet thinking about survival and return, feeling empowered, is reaching surprising intensity.

Let’s reflect upon how every person is presumably destined to reach the point of critical mass in the personal creative sense, which directly affects a person’s social world. This critical mass – or, becoming so saturated by one’s interest area that one must share it –  requires a certain escape velocity from restrictive social bindings and economic forces (not to mention one’s own ‘mental slavery’). There will come the moment of breaking free of the negative gravity, the whirlpool effect of the poverty trap, for example.

For convenience let’s call the ‘point of critical mass in the personal creative sense’ simply the Quickening (pun intended, being that we’re under shelter-in-place orders that have us ‘slowing’ down, at home). For me, this is part of a larger phenomenon of being held back, as a phenomenon that is evidently universal among cultures. It’s being held back and then being used by others. Hence, this is a slowing and retarding of a person’s nascent maturation and self-possession. – The very opposite of that is the Quickening, or liberation of the person from artificial, outside bindings that is also the arrival of that person in an actual livelihood.

Our term also can characterize, therefore, the Audience for this kind of social and moral philosophy, and that Audience’s collaboration with it: participants are focused primarily upon experiencing the Quickening, because it is deemed what is most important (especially under the circumstances). So I will sometimes touch upon my own experience of it, as a member of this audience.

Experience of Quickening

Experiencing this (reaching critical mass creatively) implies many sorts of subjectivities, including those who are experiencing it currently, as well as those who did so a long time since, and the ones who desperately want it. What is necessary for this Audience, and is therefore its goal, is to notice, embrace, and amplify situations strictly focused upon the experience of Quickening. In my experience, shelter-in-place has called for exactly that focus, and so I have been doing nothing else except tracking my own escape velocity, as it were.

Any audience interested in Quickening, so defined, is connected by certain shared experiences, both online and in-person, spanning the range or continuum of oppression and liberation. The overall focus and meaning of those experiences must contribute to the great recalibration and revision of mainstream ideas, particularly around the phenomenon of work. This natural process includes centrally, as it always has, the communal experience of poetry and music, and the Arts in general.

(Another day passes quickly.)


15 April 2020

During shelter-in-place I have experienced moods, lessons, convictions, issues, questions, methods, strategies, goals, visions. Regarding the past few years, and the patterns of a lifetime, reflection is showing the extent of fatigue from the phenomena, being held back and being used, specifically by commercial and public institutions. I also have experienced being helped  by strangers, human beings, as recently as late 2018 while in the hospital for the first time.

Those two, being held back and used alongside being helped by human beings appear to submit themselves as poles of the continuum of social behavior that ultimately derives from ideological tendencies – this ideological continuum is fundamentally related to the phenomenon of work and the problem of endemic poverty.

Regarding what’s happening now (The Disaster) and our gradual return to social life, my thinking has reached adequate conviction that certain phenomena, such as labor in survival mode, and the adjacent, connected phenomena such as the poverty trap, and even more universal issues such as endemic poverty or poverty per se, will be my priorities.

I realize that a conviction by someone that the problem of poverty can be solved philosophically (that is, via being knowledgeable and understanding) may elicit disbelief from others, perhaps mockery, ridicule, being judged naive, and so forth.

I can empathize with that reaction to the extent that just wishing for the end of poverty or getting attached to a positive opinion is pollyannaish. However, what I am finding is that the next step is critical, once we are convinced that poverty is a phenomenon of suffering that can be improved or eradicated through wide-scale, philosophical understanding: the even more important step is expressing this social solution in ways that bypass ideological walls.

I think this can happen by holding open a new kind of dialog aided by technology that powerfully connects with everyone’s innate philosophical nature – irrespective of given levels of intelligence or overall human consciousness. That kind of dialog, for example, can be injected into philosophical experiences embodied by the Arts.

Many of these statements are studded with controversial ideas, such as a universal definition of human and humanity, which is based upon the principle that whatever is universal and commonly experienced is therefore to be respected. I have been thinking intensely (and sometimes by meditating) about the question of how to reach a social norm of respect for every human being’s intelligence and consciousness. Apparently the Western Enlightenment did not drive home those points, or, modernity and postmodernity have challenged and threatened our understanding and even memory of that historical Enlightenment to a degree that must now be confronted.

During the ‘National Emergency’ (the phrase rings true on many levels), and spurred by The Disaster (manifesting as Covid-19 and shelter-in-place), I have been observing suffering within myself, and in my own city, and in my country, that has confirmed and intensified my extent intuitions and focused them upon the potentiality of survival and return – returning with a new status quo in mind. I also have a sense of the question of whether, and why, this historical moment may be interpreted by future generations as a watershed moment, a lynch pin for what was to come.
What does survival of Covid-19 mean within the context of having undergone and survived the prior economic system? 
Is a return to the prior system and status quo really to be understood as survival and recovery?


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Phenomenology of The Disaster: (3) On the Economics of The Disaster

BOULDER, CO – It goes without saying that there is an economic aspect of The Disaster that many of us are experiencing as a financial threat and terror, another of the sharp pains of being in survival mode. I expect that this tension will lead a majority of us to think about the open cultural question of what authentic livelihood is, and, obviously, simply to question the disastrous, economic status quo we’ve undergone up until now.

When the public fears economic ‘depression’, austerity, insecurity, the collapse of markets, endemic poverty, what are they really fearing? Pull away the facades and curtains, the smoke-and-mirrors, the computer graphics, and what actually is feared? It is the small group of financially powerful Americans, the heirs and heiresses, owners, tycoons, oligarchs, financial wizards whose constant reinvention of investment markets ensnares the masses’ capital before ultimately gambling it away (followed by bailouts), in lockstep with political cycles. The public also subconsciously fears those cultural elites who proliferate gratuitous consumer products and unleash related barrages of marketing – they are ruthless panderers of addictive, frivolous themes.

This overall scheme by Wall Street and consumerism writ large is a weird psychological and intellectual cruelty against the humanity of Americans (and people around the globe). It is macro gas-lighting, which seeks to normalize the very existence of the conservative economic establishment and its baked-in greed.

The establishment’s main lie is that society must be built upon a financial foundation, that we should develop cultural experiences upon the edifices of commercial activities – and, an adjacent lie is that society must be built upon private property, gun ownership, and business, because this somehow ensures basic civility, individual liberty, law and order, while it prevents anarchy or authoritarians.

We have been brainwashed by these deceptions into feeling that certain cultural fulcrums, eternal nemeses, are natural and unavoidable: conservative versus liberal, white collar versus blue collar, rich versus poor, professionals versus workers, and so on. While there are certainly dualisms and contradictions experienced throughout culture, these conventional opposing pairs above show how even our ideological encampments are entrenched according to economic notions – whereas those camps may have plenty of alignment on issues other than the (poorly-understood) economy.

Obviously, if society is forced to take cultural and spiritual guidance from the outdated Capitalism of post-WWII American individualists, or the 1%, then our social contract will get sicker, and need critical care. The current Covid-19 crisis is exposing the underlying health issues, so to speak, of our entire socio-cultural matrix including the parasitic economic ‘system’.

The good news is – philosophical experiences also exist, including the Arts. More good news: we can gather around the interest areas of pure thinking and experiencing the Quickening together, as an Audience of this unfolding interest in what is most important, overall, philosophically.


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Phenomenology of The Disaster: (2) The Shared Audience

BOULDER, CO – I won’t presume to know about mainstream experiences of The Disaster, including shelter-in-place orders in, for example, Suburbia, mega cities, or rural areas. So it makes sense to get very specific about the kind of experience that I, and others with my background, location, and interests, are encountering. Those kinds of basic experience form the basis of our communal online audience (which I call The Audience).

I conceive of such an Audience as orbiting an interest area rather than attaching to an individual, a personality. Therefore each contribution addresses that Audience without its contributor trying to possess those people’s attention or coerce the sphere somehow.

As I’ll point out again and again: nowadays audience members and distinct, named ‘audiences’ are like leagues of interlocutors, rather than mere receivers of content that is more or less entertaining.

Who Are We?

So, who are We as this online Audience, here and now, of people who are perusing, reading, and writing daemiangarett.com and its little Web ecosphere? (I can tell you up front: it's a small number as of April 2020.)

LOCATION: At least presently, any prospective worldwide Audience will extend and expand upon who we are together in a specific local community, naturally. (Nevertheless, I am interested in the ontology of purely ‘hyperlocal’ communities online also.)

WHERE: In my case, this means living in a semi-rural city of about a hundred thousand that is less than an hour from a metropolis of almost three million.

ROLES: Given that kind of earthbound location, our We-the-Audience sphere is comprised of philosopher-artists (generously defined, according to the serious tenets of Philosophy but not necessarily from academic and/or Fine Art backgrounds).

HOW: Moreover, we are philosopher-artists who had been caught in the poverty trap to some extent (including perhaps having exacerbated it also) prior to the arrival The Disaster. Now, however, we are intent to pursue real livelihood during shelter-in-place orders.

(By the way, this is the profile of interest and background that I’m using to focus what is published on daemiangarett.com.)

EXPECTATIONS: I don’t expect readers to match my minute circumstances (mainly location, financial insecurity, behavioral austerity, bootstrapped entrepreneurship, living with housemates). But I would hope that those who are relatively affluent can gain more understanding of the experience of ‘survival mode’, of getting caught in the ‘poverty trap’. (I’m putting certain words in quotes because they are loaded terms that deserve re-definitions – see links.)

I would like to expect that readers do love the altered state of pure thinking, and the bliss of understanding (which is the ultimate impetus of ‘actions’), also the euphoria of new ideas and perceptions.

What could be more fun than real, transcendent thinking and imagining?

In my view, however, there is nothing better than finally relaxing, in the most deep way, the ontological or Being-oriented way.  In fact, I will be arguing that ‘philosophical experiences’ are the actual, but underrated source of any artistic amazement and pleasure, and, that this kind of experience necessarily is in complementarity with the full ontological relax.

TOPICAL: For the present, within the scope of ‘The Phenomenology of The Disaster’ posts, readers who comprise the Audience are interested, as it were, in the upshots of this National Emergency: its upshots insofar as this is a threat of destruction, which will be followed by regeneration and re-creation – particularly of families, communities, the economy, the healthcare system, work and labor, the social contract, and so forth.

As such, this Disaster holds the gift of providing a new space, fecund ground, for starting the inevitable, radical revision of existential fundamentals including our ideas of Humanism, of the Western Enlightenment itself, our American Constitution – especially now that the Anthropocene is in full swing, and replete with new forms of The Disaster like climate change, AI, and pandemic viruses.

What Time Is It?

Two observations were recurring while I took a break to lay in the sun in the backyard: First, this shelter-in-place status quo (announced last night where I live) is an epic break in normality, a fissure in familiarity, and it thereby provides a superb opportunity to think.

Real or pure thinking is not replaying stale memories or reinscribing beliefs. Viable thinking has the quality of freshness: to think is surprising, exhilarating, strengthening. So, shelter-in-place is a perfect time to think, first and foremost – and, it is the ideal time to think about what is most important.

Second, regarding the man in the Oval Office at the present time, who acts like a sociopathic narcissist constantly defending his own incompetence: he has become a living propaganda and brainwashing channel (deploying rhetorical sleight-of-hand tricks like repeating key opinions ad nauseum, feigning the look of sage premeditation before each variation). – But, meanwhile we can notice how he provides the perfect example of the opposite of real thinking, the opposite of understanding what is most important to think about (let alone ‘to do’, or ‘to act upon’).


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Phenomenology of The Disaster: Introduction

BOULDER, CO – We’re over a week into the extended, indefinite period of the first National Emergency over public health that I have experienced. This morbid new normal is coinciding with inevitable tsunamis of angst, reflection, and creativity worldwide – the phenomenology of this response is my main interest, as an existential journalist and non-attached philosopher.

* Key terms link to on-site elaborations in new windows.

For many people, creative impulses will emerge through home-bound and neighborhood reporting, and authoring a plethora of communiques, using Web-connected devices. Surely, there will be a global deluge of novel uses of technology, first-person narratives, and home crafts in the wakes of this pandemic’s shocks.

The desolation unique to a global plague must coincide with brave reflection, and creativity, and this can happen in fundamental respects because it is The Disaster. The bonds between fear, death, suffering, the suddenly stripped-down circumstances of our lives, our transcendent experiences, and the Arts are getting re-clarified – and fortunately.

But our interest in those hopeful connections – more precisely in the real upshots of this lamentable situation – may seem to conflict with the epic pain of a glocal catastrophe. Even our own perceptions and interpretations of The Disaster are getting mediated across great distances by sensationalist or trumped-up news, the moodiness of deserted public spaces, and the myopia of feeling ‘stuck’ at home. That is, unless one directly experiences the front lines or knows stricken people. For most of us, however, this is the first war that must be fought by becoming hermits.


I have been a self-declared but unpaid existential journalist for over a decade. I become accustomed to perpetual culture shock following doctoral studies in Philosophy that continued with expat life in India, where I experienced endemic forms of The Disaster as it manifests uniquely there.

Here in the States, I have hazarded the contemporary ‘poverty trap’ – with the attitude of a researcher – by supporting myself doing freelance and gig work. Prior to this National Emergency, I had observed the highest levels of wealth inequality I have seen in this country. It tempts us to think that managed poverty itself has been the goal of much of the socio-cultural matrix since the end of WWII:
A society overrun and dominated by the commercial and financial and industrial sectors organized as corporations, following the hegemony of the military-industrial-complex.
This has been disastrous for a long time already. The affront to Humanism and the Western Enlightenment is perhaps the most aggressively dissembled catastrophe, which, nonetheless is getting exposed in dramatic, mind-blowing ways by this material crisis called Covid-19.

So in the barest terms, my point of view – for full disclosure and context here – presently consists of financial insecurity, and therefore behavioral austerity, while under shelter-in-place. I am writing this series ‘Phenomenology of The Disaster’ especially for others in that situation; however, it is suggested reading for those who are financially buffered from this Disaster as well.

Strangely, with the anticipation of the creativity and expression emanating from the recent shelter-in-place orders (but after distinct waves of grieving and shock) I’m experiencing my own surge of creative activity – and its psychology is nuanced. In fact, the more one senses and perceives this rampant virus, the more meanings, experiences, and interpretations inevitably will orbit it. Yet, what is this ‘it’ in itself, in raw terms?

Let’s look at the Covid-19 epidemic (The Disaster) dispassionately, and perhaps even in childlike terms as we perceive it directly, as it is, and in its repercussions and ramifications. We must conduct a thorough phenomenology of The Disaster (in this case, manifesting as Covid-19), along with the epistemic and ontological analyses.

Tragedy and Upshots

There are all kinds of upshots of the Covid-19 crisis, and dangers, that we will perceive only as it unfolds. One captivating new reality involves people staying home, and, the blackout of commercial, brick-and-mortar America. It’s almost like the quietude of Christmas Day prolonged indefinitely. People sequestered, after dealing with the loss of income, will be forced into ongoing leisure.

This is a test for society. Will most people get creative, and at least learn to use tech tools for virtual community? – or, how many will escape into binge-watching screen content, sink into depression, or begin careers in addiction?

Let’s assume that a substantial amount of people, of households, do approach their confinements creatively, recognizing that one upshot of shelter-in-place is experiencing leisure in the home. This is just the bare phenomenon – there is bound to be a large number of people who cannot experience ‘leisure’ during this Disaster, for any of infinite reasons.

We should always keep in mind the full range of people who are confronting this health and societal emergency. We will pay attention to the socio-economic dilemmas of workers exempted from shelter-in-place, to be the workforce for Emergency Services including grocery-store and pharmacy clerks.


The technical arena of working at home through The Disaster includes producing Internet-connected media and using home equipment (such as for making and editing videos). This presents an interesting moment in the creative process that brings in the experience of publishing to a global audience, which could be said to induce an altered state of consciousness. Specifically, it is some kind of alteration of our individualistic cultural programming, like a radical openness to the Other, albeit buffered by technology and mimesis.

This openness, together with the intrinsic possibility in Internet media to embrace all of humanity as audience/interlocutor, could be understood, at least, as not the same character of consciousness as found with hard, obsolete, American individualism.

One of the goals of this series, Phenomenology of The Disaster, is to create and bolster a conceptual bridge between the increasingly common personal experience of broadcasting to Earth as a human being (which includes doing Internet-based work), and, the prospect, and advent, of something I refer to as The Livelihood Economy – also the subject of a white paper I am crowdfunding and writing.

The next piece in this series discusses a certain understanding of The Audience who potentially engages with interests such as these: The Audience that comprises a phenomenological forum exploring our angst, reflection, and creativity at the very start of an era of pandemics.


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