naked_lunch: (Design > X-Ray Specs)
The control machine is simply the machinery — police, education, etc. — used by a group in power to keep itself in power and extend its power. For example, in a hunting society, which can only number about thirty, there's nothing that could be called a control machine in operation. They must function effectively as a hunting party in order to survive, so leadership is casual and you have no control machine. Now as soon as you get an agricultural society, particularly in rich land, you will tend to get inequality. That is, the advantage of slave labor then becomes apparent and you may have, as with the Mayans and Egyptians, workers and priests — in other words, satisfaction, repressions, and you have a control machine. As I said, the ancient Mayans had almost a model control machine through which about one or two percent of the population controlled the others, without police, without heavy weapons. The workers all had such weapons as were available, stone axes, spears, etc. So it was pure psychological control.

— William S. Burroughs


Control, a common theme that threads throughout Burroughs' work. He even felt that love was a form of viral madness, meant to control the individual. Personally I don't think he was entirely wrong on that front.
naked_lunch: (Science > Brain in a Jar)
Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word.

Most people never stop talking — "talking to themselves", as they call it. But who are they really talking to, and why? Why can't they simply lapse into silence?

Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing... Personally I find nothing upsetting about silence at all. In fact it can't get too quiet for me. I would say that silence is only a device of terror for compulsive verbalizers.

When you erase your involuntary subservience to authority, the extreme manifestations of authority lose their power to affect you.


— William S. Burroughs


Burroughs brings up an interesting point, one that I've pondered since first reading this. For me, his theory creates more questions than answers, such as how did humans think before they had language? Were their minds silent before language, filled with images instead of words? How did ideas occur in human minds before verbal thought process and verbal communication existed? Symbols and drawings were a form of communication in mankind's early years, but did they precede or follow verbalization?

The curiously impossible exercise Burroughs proposes to the reader is fascinating: "Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk." I've attempted this many times. Each time I am reminded of René Descartes' famous phrase: cogito ergo sum, "I think therefore I am." I suppose it means a healthy mind has a difficult time separating from sentience, and that perhaps thinking, on a primal level, is simply a survival mechanism.

Of course, I don't really know what the hell I'm talking about. I was in the mood to ramble. I've been awake for two days, drinking too much coffee and worrying about the political future of this seemingly dying empire. When you're unemployed and broke there's not much to do between job interviews aside from thinking and worrying.

March 2012

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