From Mitochondrial Eve to Michael Jackson’s Syringe

2010 March 27
by Carl Watson

 It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.  —Thomas Frank


News item:  In the rush to profit off the death of the King of Pop, even the syringe that held the dope that killed the King will be auctioned off to the highest bidder in the Land of the Free that God has Blessed that Saved the World for Democracy.  Despite the seeming chaos of the preceding sentence, there are two or three other forms of chaos involved here.  One is the proliferation of money to such an extreme that it seeks out absurd objects to attach itself to.  This is chaotic in that the normal valences, the normal cause and effect linkage between “use,” “value,” and “object” has broken down.  Related to this breakdown of valence,  is a kind of OCD-style entropy of “value” or significance, in which everything can be made to seem equal to everything else.  Democracy contends (demands) that there be more and more value to spread around, value for everybody,  which means value must increase in the world.  Here we have the underlying engine of both our economic system and our population problem—an overvaluing, a state of signification in which there is simultaneously an absurd relativism (i.e. a syringe is worth a lb of gold is worth a sacred cow is worth a . . .) and a thrust toward further proliferation—the generation of people and the generation of wealth.

What I would like to suggest is that the auctioning off of the syringe that killed Michael Jackson might be considered an evolutionary marker of some sort.  Perhaps we could say that it represents the turning point of human culture into absolute absurdity or chaos, what I will hear call a Madoff moment, or Ponzi-gasm.  Yes, life in these here modern times has become one big Ponzi Party or evolutionary erection.  People are just partying their asses and their cash off as if the tomorrow, from which they borrowed it, will never come.  This party is everywhere, it is taking over the world.  Point of fact: in an adjacent news article it is reported that Indian farmers are selling off their farmland for big bucks to the government which in turn sells the land to developers, thus the farms outside large cities are turned into vast housing tracks.  The farmers then throw this money away on helicopter weddings and other blatant displays of wealth while there is less land to feed the people.  But, as one farmer said:  “Why not?”  Precisely—why the hell not.  One of the tenets of Reaganism was that the illusion of wealth actually produces wealth, and this is generally true.  New housing starts are regularly cited as an indication of economic health.  But I maintain that there is a disconnect here, or more accurately—a dilemma.   If we stop making and buying new houses and new cars the economy will collapse, but if we don’t stop making and buying new houses and new cars the environment will collapse.  Everyone figures that the future will solve the problem for us: new technology, changes in human behavior, worldwide democracy.  It’s a Ponzi mentality to be sure.  The truth is that none of those future fixes have helped over the ages because none of them address the problem. And the pretense that free markets will help the poor has been shown, more and more clearly, to be a lie.

All this expansionism may have something to do with the exponential growth of the human brain.  We used to believe that the brain got bigger to solve the problems of living.  And since it seemed to work it made sense that everything else should get bigger too.  However, scientists have begun to suspect that the big brain of the human being was in fact a mutation, an accident; in other words it appeared all at once and was not a gradual development at all.  Our common mom, Mitochondrial Eve (hence M-Eve) was a mutant child with a large head, which must have been considered hot in those ante-Deluvian sex markets.  The big brained babe pulled a 40,000 year-long train as hairy cave dudes lined up outside her pied-a-terre hoping for a chance to procreate the future of the human race.  She thus passed on scads of mutant genes producing more of these big-headed children who ran the small headed children back into the trees gibbering about their lesser status.

It is my contention that this mutation in which the brain got crossed with a broccoli stalk (or more likely began to imitate its bifurcating growth gene) because we now have what amounts to a large floret of soft neuro-cauliflower in our skulls.  This cauliflower came about via the accidental, out-of-control bifurcation of nerve endings inside the particularly soft but definitely limited skull of one M-Eve many millennia ago,, causing a invo/convolution of increasing surface area.  It is because the development of the cauliflower brain mirrors the population growth of the species that I proclaim the Broccoli TheoryTM of the Universe.  (The reader will note that I use cauliflower and broccoli interchangably). In the following graphs I trace the connections between broccoli and chaos, Homo Ponzi and World Population.

I have called attention here to the relationship between the formation of a stalk of broccoli , a mushroom cloud and world population growth.  I would like to further point out the similarity between those structures and the shape of the human brain below, which in its absurd dependence on future fantasies, what it might come up with later also resembles the Pyramid/Ponzi scheme shown below. 

To make my point plain, let us begin with Mitochondrial Eve at the upper left.  We can immediately see how the “pyramid scheme” of population growth mimics the bifurcation graph tracing the fragmentation of a steady state into a chaotic state.  This structure can be seen in numerous self-similar examples if you look for it: a tree, a mushroom cloud, smoke coming off a cigarette, a broccoli floret.  Using the latter example, let the surface of the broccoli floret represent the population of humans on the surface of the earth.  You get something like the Voronoi map pictured above, a cellular representation of population density.  Thus we can say the population of the world grows from the evolutionary stem of M-Eve, like a stalk of broccoli until the crown, (total number of humans today) covers the entire surface of the planet like a moss or fungus threatening to choke off all other life.  This intense population density sets the stage for (indeed demands) an economic system that profits not only from the exponential growth vector, but also from the chaotic relativism I suggested earlier—a confusion of values that allows all exchanges to be valued subjectively according to random local desires.  Thus we have a spongy overcrowded world in which Michael Jackson’s Syringe can be auctioned off for the price of feeding a small nation, and this disparity attracts very little attention.  In fact it seems “natural.”

Now I would like to direct our attention to the graph below, which shows the exponential growth of the population of the earth.  Note that the graph suggests that we are today at the 6 billion mark.  In fact we are beyond that, closing in on 7 billion.  Estimates for the critical mass of human population (at which point it becomes unsustainable) range from 10 to 12 billion, a number that we could reach by 2050.  However, even if we do not arrive at some point-of-no-return, we may well arrive at a point-of-no-significance, this is what I spoke of earlier, a state of total equivalency (Deleuze calls it the Plane of Consistency) where all things are equal to all other things, and therefore it is pretty much pointless to exist (if the “pleasure” of existence is based on difference).

Let the far right vertical line represent the broccoli crown, a joyous profusion of whatever. We can look at the above graph in several different ways.   The obvious one (to me anyway) is sexual, and I mean sex as the product of numeration.  In this scenario the far right side of the graph represents the violent evolutionary erection of the collective libido of humankind, which of course happens to coincide with the total population: as erections lead inevitably to reproduction of some kind.  But reproduction gets confused with violence; some would say it is a form of violence.  In fact, much violence is meant to protect reproduction if not to outright procure it.   Rape, a type of violence, is a more diverse byproduct; it spreads away from the species into the environment.  It is thus rape not just of the female gender but of the poor and the planet itself. Rape can also be symbolic.  In this scenario, massive numbers of human bodies become symbolic of blood flow to the loins (i.e. number of platelets and leucocytes filling the spongy phallic tissues) pressing the population to further lustiness.

If we flip the above graph so that the vertical is evident in two directions we get something like the graph below in which the far right surface again represents the crown: be it broccoli, bodies, synapses or commodities.

However with the advent of culture, when it was necessary to limit population growth reproduction was sublimated into the reproduction of signs, signs of selves.  (You are what you own.)  In other words when fleshy needy babies no longer satisfy, we make art (which asks for nothing in return). Thus the sign stands in for the signified, the object for the self.  Wealth equals self.  Iconic syringes equal money equal power equal self etc,  The equation ramifies without end.  We might like to claim that art has saved the world from overpopulation, but it has not.  Stuff, as George Carlin puts it, continues to pile up more stuff.  But if scientists are correct when they claim matter is constant then an increase in your stuff means a decrease in someone else’s stuff, somewhere like Africa or Haiti.  This leads me to the next possible interpretation of the above graph.

Another way to view this graph is as the representation of a cosmic Ponzi scheme. Each earlier segment of the chronological line feeds itself off the postulated existence of the later sections. This becomes particularly true when humans achieve self-consciousness and it then accelerates to the nth degree once we pass into the modern era and especially true with the advent of industrial capitalism.  The future promises so much that we borrow from it constantly.  As a result the present swells absurdly in anticipation, the same way that the genitals swell “in anticipation” of future sex.  Everyone thus is living well (even if beyond their means), assuming of course that in the future there will be enough production, enough resources, enough children (unfortunately) to pay for the past.  The credit economy is based on this kind of illusion.  You can have what you want now as long as someone is willing to buy into and maintain the illusion that there will be business in the future to pay for it. And that business will be based on the same illusion about their future. 

Poor Berny Madoff, he was only doing what everyone is doing. Berny might even say that he is only following the biological dictates of his species; that is he has created an economy that exactly mirrors the reproductive drive of biological species toward excess.  He might say, “Hey, look at the proliferation of Awards Shows on TV, or the growth of email addresses, or brands of toothpaste.”  And he would have a point. But such a defense will not hold up in court, although free market gurus and other republicans are saying approximately the same thing. (Note: these are the same people who also claim to be fiscal conservatives, proving my point that everything is now equal to everything.)

Berny, like others is luxuriating at the head of the erection, at the so-called broccoli crown, at the peak of the Ponzi Mountain.  Here also wallow many other beneficiaries, the pontificators of Davos, lately engaged in a mass wringing of their collective anguished heart.  Davos gave us a veritable Mardi Gras parade of world leaders and other  privileged individuals going on about how they would end poverty even as poverty paid for their privilege to say it.   Nothing is more absurd than seeing the Elizabeth “la Deux,” saying that the wealth of the British Empire was purchased at the expense of the rape of the southern hemisphere and pretending to care about it.  Her heir apparent, Young Prince Harry the future King of England chimes in with a smirk: It’s our fault, we’re to blame. Sarkozy too gets his compassion game on when he proclaims that he supports an end to poverty.  Merkel is down for some action as well.  Even America’s first black president, Bill Clinton gets in on the act, admitting that he has some blame to share in the destitution of Haiti.  Everyone is to blame and they are willing to admit it on tape. They all seem to want it to stop too, on tape. Then they all drive off in their BMWs to their goose liver dinners. 

All these people profit from the Po-Mo relativism, the Ponzi mush at the top of the erection, enjoying the pleasure of social and economic orgasm or Ponzi-gasm as we might call it, perhaps secretly wondering how much they themselves might be willing to pay for Michael Jackson’s syringe.  It would look good on their mantels along with their Save-the World trophies.  But they are not wrong to think such thoughts. Nature hates a vacuum and capitalism abhors stagnant money. Just as new highways generate the traffic they were built to relieve, the economy evolves to require you to spend everything you own.  I wanted to say something about this dilemma at Davos, but of course, I wasn’t invited to Davos.  I don’t get invited to the Aspen Ideas Festival either. Apparently I don’t have ideas.  And that’s alright. Maybe I don’t deserve them. Ideas are out there however, someone is having them., people with better blood lines.

The fact that nature hates a vacuum is not limited to physical presence.  Nature loves ideas as well.  Take the idea of poverty: in 1820, the gap between the richest and poorest country was 3 to 1; in 1950, it was 35 to 1; and today, it is nearly 80 to 1.  In 1970, 434 million people were suffering from malnutrition. Today, that number is 854 million.  Everybody loves increasing numbers.  Everybody loves to have more than everybody else, and choice is proliferation.   It almost takes a whole row of my local drugstore shelves to display the five thousand types of toothpaste available.  Forget about breakfast cereal.   For some reason I look at these endless rows of product and think of fast moving reptiles scurrying and  breeding and multiplying.  Big numbers and growth remind us of our biological imperative, reproduce, spread your DNA, never stop. 

In a final note, we might consider this:  As we approach the broccoli crown, the Ponzi-gasm of excess and equivalency, we notice a tendency of things to get smaller–each bifurcation creates a smaller version of itself.  As humanity multiplies,  human personalities must become more and more specialized, smaller and more tightly defined.  The big personalities of history, the legends and world shapers, are gone.  We now have smaller men with smaller ideas.  This lack of modern renaissance men and women is no fluke, it is forced upon us as we are forced to fit into smaller and smaller “psychic spaces.”  At some point, despite our big brains, we will become so small-minded it will no longer be possible to see or to protest our situations.  In fact, this is happening now.  Still we reproduce. And the world gets smaller and more crowded with us.  Think of that Mini Cooper, the Smart Car, the TV on your Palm Pilot.   Everyday we are reading about something that is smaller and supposedly better for that reason.  This may be propaganda convincing us that it is okay to be small, to have little effect, to be less while pretending to be more.  It may be propaganda telling us that nothing is lost and we can be better off than we are.  Even twelve-year olds are getting the message, as evident in this headline I recently read—a prime example of this miniaturization of reproduction:

Extra Small Condoms for 12 Year-Old Boys Go on Sale in Switzerland.

March 3, 2010   Telegraph 
A new, condom, called the Hotshot, is being produced in Switzerland in a size geared to fit 12 year olds as a result of a study which showed more 12 to 14-year-olds were having sex, in comparison with the 1990s.

The analogy may not be exact but the point is that life goes on as a mathematical machine, grinding out more stuff.  And oddly all of it in the name of reproduction of the glory of human life. The universe applauds–it likes nothing better than a good explosion.

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