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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

REVIEW Snowpiercer: A Reading Through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

In reading this review from Unemployed Negativity more resonances emerged. I love his reading BTW. I am reading the film Snowpiercer through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a sort of different reading.
In the early 1960's I attended Objectivist Lectures in Philadelphia given by Barbara Branden. (1960-1962) and sometimes Rand herself came to the Q and A time after the lecture. I never asked one question in two years. I didn't because I had read her fiction and newly published non-fiction (For the New Intellectual and The Objectivist Newsletter) and any question that was asked I already knew what my answer would be and waited to see what Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, Leonard Peikoff, Alan Greenspan, et al and even Ayn Rand herself would reply.The questions were most often stupid and were posed because, well, IDK why........maybe just so they could stand up and ask her a question?
So while Barbara and Nathaniel were cool and poised, Rand would begin to show irritation, frustration (me too) and would sometimes get angry or at least emotional.

Ayn Rand testifying at HUAC-House UnAmerican Activities Committee
In Mason's speech to the people in the "tail" she perseverates by repeating
So be it.
It is so.
over and over again
When Rand was stressed at a Q&A session being the flyswatter that Nietzsche said he wasn't going to be:
("I am not a flyswatter!")
Rand would say with finality:
A Is A!
Inversion of the quote is Nietzschean trope and Rand started with Nietzsche when she was 16 memorizing him

So when Tilda Swinton gives her over the top speech as Mason in Snowpiercer, my immediate association was not Thatcher but Rand in all her outrageousness. Her hair, her facial expressions, all exaggerated of course. Much like the teacher in the classroom car is all Reese Witherspoon in her 1999 movie Election, so much so that I thought young Reese was in the movie for a second.
And less you think these train cars are too too.....
The New Japan Cruise Train
Another car on Japanese train
Here is a clip of Tilda Swinton as Mason. A man's arm is being attached to a "sleeve" to plug into its gasket in the train to have the arm held out to the way below arctic freezing temperature outside to demonstrate to the "tail" section the danger in revolting and stepping outside the safety of the train. Mason gives her speech and she is quite mad and wonderful.

Tilda Swinton as Mason in Snowpiercer.

The Sacred Motor is the "sacred" motor Dagny finds at the defunct Twentieth Century Motor Company, where Galt was working and designed it. It is an engine of the future and it is in need of serious repair which Dagny gives to - I forget - to fix. Dagny has plans to put this engine into her locomotives of Taggert Transcontinental. Dagny's engine will ride the rails made of Reardon Metal a metaphorical image irresistible to someone who thinks Lacanian. The engine in Atlas is patterned after Nicola Tesla's engine built for Westinghouse when he was inspiring Edison who stole all his ideas. It was an engine that had no fuel needs, just evidently air, that car accelerated in a few seconds. It was scrapped, its existence hidden, a secret. After all Standard Oil of New Jersey was a powerful corporation at that time. An eternal engine like that would not have been welcomed by the players of the game. Anyway it is gone and we just imagine and guess about it and some try to reinvent it in their garages.

So here it is in all its magic glory in Snowpiercer. A train that circles the earth once each year, like a sort of ground satellite. The Eternal Sacred Engine is everlasting, irreversible, just like Capitalism. It continually goes. The social structure inside the train is confinement of classes. The beggars of the earth are in the "tail" - nice symbolism here - and the Sacred Engine is at the front with its designer who is now getting old. He is wearing out.

The point that Unemployed Negativity brings out is Zizekian thinking. So I urge you to read it. The humans inside the train are confined within the Foucauldian Grid of power/knowledge. Resistance is possible and revolutions do happen but do not overthrow the system. The system devours them like Pac-Man (Marcuse) and is strengthened by them. (Vija Kinski will tell Eric Packer the same thing in DeLillo's Cosmopolis.) Baudrillard will challenge Foucault in his book
telling Foucault to go to the edge of the abyss and continue the pressure until it all implodes into the chasm. Until it commits suicide. 

And this is Snowpiercer, as well as Atlas Shrugged

What Unemployed Negativity says is that no one inside the train can imagine life outside the train in the ice-age out there. And we in our world now cannot imagine our way out of it. Only one person on the train knows about snow. A nice wave to that wonderful novel
Smilla's Sense of Snow
Just in case you never knew this book it is a marvel
The Asian drug addict Kang-ho Song in a wonderful performance has observed that the snow is melting. That they can exist outside the train. 

He wants to create an explosion

that will avalanche the mountains of snow. Curtis now the Curtis Revolution of 18 (years 

they have been on the train) gives in on continuation when Trainbaby shows him what is 

under a hatchlock. He sees what he will have to continue doing and he cannot.

He agrees to the explosion, gives her the match, and these last few 

huddle together waiting for the detonation.

Then when Trainbaby 

Curtis and Trainbaby born on the train 17 years ago

who knows nothing about what is in the world or how people lived, she is the

tabula rasa, she and the rescued child dress warmly and go outside. Her footsteps

 sink but she does not. Nothing is there but mountains of snow until she sees a white 

movement far off.

 It turns and we see a polar bear. Is the bear out hunting for food? She has no weapons,

 no place to go for shelter as the train was burning inside. She and the child are the only 

survivors. That wonderful moment as she pushes her hood off her head bared to the air.

A helpless human. 

A return to the beginning. Eternal Return - Nietzsche

The last frame is the polar bear looking at us.

This is a gorgeous film made by a visionary auteur director Bong Joon-ho

Chris Evans
Tilda Swinton
Jamie Bell
Ed Harris
John Hurt
Alison Pill
Octavia Spencer

Arturo the Polar Bear in Arizona Zoo. - Help Rescue him

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Only one time in the movie do we see Four's entire tattoo.
We see it in the scene directly following the one where Four takes Tris into his own Fearscape and Tris sees Four's deepest fear, being beaten with a leather belt and buckle by his father Marcus starting in childhood.

Usually Four stands and calms his breathing and heart rate. (This is standard technique for "flooding" developed by Edna Foa.) Tris however grabs Marcus's belt, punches Marcus and Four protects her from Marcus, thus initiating a new response in Four.

In these two images we have the complete history of Four/Tobias's childhood, in reverse sequence for the viewer.

The Tattoo

The tattoo is a record of his beatings. On a child's skin, a leather belt is going to leave terrible welts, cuts and permanent scars. Not like Patsy's beatings in 12 Years a Slave nor like this slave:
A horrifying explicit vision of Nietzsche's Torturous Inscription of  the Body
But you get the idea. To a child it is a terrible thing to endure beatings that leave permanent markings. 
Down the center of Four's back on his spinal cord are the five faction symbols. 
So with this piece of dialogue we know that every time Tobias displayed curiosity - forbidden in Abnegation - which is linked to intelligence, or bravery, honesty, happiness or kindness Marcus forbid it. And he not only forbid it - the way Beatrice was forbidden - but he was also punished unmercifully for being a curious, kind, intelligent, honest, brave and happy child until he learned never to show any of those feelings. Ever. 
The tattoo clearly shows the lash marks probably covering some scars. It clearly shows all five of the factions, desires, attributes, a well rounded person who was emotionally mature might have. 

But exposing the tattoo reveals both shame and desire.

In revealing what he has concealed to Tris in his Fearscape and on his back he is confessing shame and opening himself to vulnerability. (Badiou:In Praise of Love)
Tris carefully runs her fingers and hand down Four's back touching him tenderly and admiringly
And Four is being touched tenderly for the very first time in his life. He does not wear his tattoo openly nor share it with anyone as he is a very private person.
"Not approachable."

This is an explicit Inscription of the Body - Mind always included in this concept - that Nietzsche details for us in The Genealogy of Morals. 
Four has turned his torture into body art. He has carved the memory of it onto his back to be there forever. 
All you have to do  is look at the lashes as they curve around his arms, neck and rib cage, how the belt falls on his shoulder blades and back to understand this. He never wants to forget it. He never wants to forgive. He always wants to remember the terrified child he was. 

Is this why he keeps going back into his Fearscape? Has it become erotic for him? 

Actually in terms of Behavior Therapy Four chooses flooding - implosion - to confront his fears (Edna Foa). With flooding it is necessary to re-experience the "flooding" on a semi regular basis to keep the fear manageable. It doesn't go away forever. 
Spontaneous recovery is a fact of psychological learning theory.

BTW this works really well to desensitize your dog to thunder and Fourth of July explosions. Tape similar sounds, go to confined room with your dog, play the tape very low (read a book or something) until your dog ignores it. Every time you do  it increase the noise a little bit. Until you can play it as loud as possible and your dog ignores it. You will have to do it semi regularly to condition your dog as Four is conditioning himself.

Back to Four and Nietzsche and The Inscription of the Body/Mind
Four's body/mind is inscripted by Dauntless when we meet him. He is carefully gendered masculine: he walks forcefully into every scene or exits purposefully. All his movements are deliberate. His dialogue is all truth. No extraneous small talk. He exhibits a frightening awareness of being a killer when he acts in that capacity. He is deadly.
Nietzsche on The Inscription of the Body which also includes the Mind.

192 How does one create a memory for the human animal?
192-193 ....there is perhaps nothing more terrible in man's earliest history than his mnemotechnics. "A thing is branded on the memory to make it stay there; only what goes on  hurting will stick"...It is the past - the longest, deepest, hardest of pasts - that seems to surge up....Whenever man has thought it necessary to create a memory for himself, his effort has been attended with torture, blood, sacrifice. ....sacrifice...repulsive mutilations...the cruelest rituals in every religious cult....all these have their origin in that instinct which divined pain to be the the strongest aid to mnemonics.

Nietzsche says more and he says pages about punishment. Festinger's work has showed that the stronger the initiation procedures, the more adherence to the group. Is this the rule for punitive families also?

Engraving your back is not  pleasurable. And culturally now, tattooing has become a wide practice. These people are engraving their body/minds. This is a surface Inscription of the Body. Ask anyone who wants to tell you why they have this one, where they got it, how they chose it, what it means, when they got it, who was the artist who did it. Each one is a MEMORY.

Going through a reading of Badiou it is only Love that opens him to vulnerability.