Highlights for Cracking the Tech Career

The best product managers, the best marketers, and the best developers have something in common: they each understand the others’ roles.

For example, if you founded a club that accomplished some concrete goals and led your school’s shift to electronic course review, you might make this a Leadership Experience section.

While you must always include education on your resume, this section should get shorter with more work experience. Many candidates with even two or three years of experience list just their major and degree.

This section should list any software, programming languages, foreign languages, or other specific skills you know.

Your summary should read much more like key accomplishments—so much so, in fact, that these sections are often called Summary and Key Accomplishments.

In this paragraph, you explain what your background is, making sure to touch on the key points of your background. If all you do is restate your resume in written format, that will put you in the solidly mediocre bucket. It’s what most applicants do.

When you write this paragraph, select two or three key skills, attributes, or accomplishments that you want to make sure the reader knows. Is it that you are great with design? Is it your surprisingly deep technical skills? It might even be a company or school you are associated with, if it’s an elite company/school.

The first paragraph introduces why you are interested in the company.

Finally, you connect yourself with the position. Why do you want it? Why specifically are you a good fit?

Additionally, you should address the letter to the individual, if you know his or her name. If you do not know the recipient’s name, never assume a gender.

Recruiting is expensive, and companies want to know that you’re excited about the job. The more excited you are about the job, the more likely you are to accept it, the more likely you are to work hard, and the more likely you are to stay at the company for a while.

“Whatever you’re asked, you’re always answering the question ‘Why should we hire you?’ It is the thesis of your interview.”

Where possible, try to hit a diversity of aspects. For example, you could select one personal attribute (persistence, etc.), one skill (sales experience), and one culture/position match.

What Are Your Strengths?

When delivering your weaknesses, it’s common to do either of the following:

Discuss how you’re mitigating the issue.

Mention the silver lining of the issue.

Offer a crisp and concise answer. Don’t play the blame game. Don’t bad-mouth your former employer. And don’t lie.

That’s why it’s so important to create a preparation grid.

Once your preparation grid is complete, you now need to select about five stories to really master.

Tell Me About a Time When You Gave a Presentation to a Group of People Who Disagreed with You

Tell Me About the Biggest Mistake You Made on a Past Project

3. Tell Me About a Time When You Had to Deal with a Teammate Who Was Underperforming

Tell Me About a Time When You had to Make a Controversial Decision

Can you transition to other teams within the company? What is the process to do that?

To position yourself in the best possible way, look for teams that will give you responsibilities beyond your actual job description, and even beyond your level of responsibility. If you want to be a manager one day, find teams that will let you mentor or manage someone—even if it’s just an intern.

Keeping a smile on your face and being positive about changes in the team or company will make people want to be around you. Plus, no one will really want to bad-mouth the guy who’s nice to everyone.

When you transition roles within one firm, you have already built trust, and the firm understands your relevant skills at a great depth. Trying to change your role when moving to a new firm is much harder.

Highlights for Woken Furies

That, of course, doesn’t apply to Envoys. We just used to go silently, crush the odd planetary uprising, topple the odd regime, and then plug in something UN-compliant that worked. Slaughter and suppression across the stars, for the greater good — naturally — of a unified Protectorate.
The Envoys came and they tore your world apart. It wasn’t that simple, of course; the truth was far more complex, and ultimately far more scary. But who in this universe wants the truth?
‘Well, Quell looked back at this black-clad man and as she stared into his hot jet eyes she knew that he spoke the truth, that he was a man of his word. So she looked at the revolver in her hand and then back at the man. And she said then you are a fanatic and cannot learn, and she shot him in the face.’
The Quellists meanwhile simply slipped away, disappeared, abandoned the struggle and got on with living their lives as Nadia Makita had always argued they should be prepared to do. Technology has given us access to timescales of life our ancestors could only dream of, we must be prepared to use that timescale, to live on that timescale, if we are to realise our own dreams.
Just reminding you, is all. This life is like the sea. There’s a three-moon tidal slop running out there and if you let it, it’ll tear you apart from everyone and everything you ever cared about.’
‘So maybe some other time,’ he said quietly. ‘When you’re not carrying so much.’ ‘Yeah. Maybe.’ It wasn’t any other time I could usefully imagine, unless he was talking about the past, and I couldn’t see any way to get back there.
The Harlanites recognise it as well as we do, and they have already made their move. It only remains for us to make ours. If in the end I have to fight and die for the ghost and memory of Quellcrist Falconer and not the woman herself, then that will be better than not fighting at all.’
But in one of her less passionate moments, Quell herself once offered an escape clause for situations such as these. If the facts are against you, she said, but you cannot bear to cease believing — then at least suspend judgment. Wait and see.’
It was a confirmation that the time had come, that the political pot was boiling over. Of course it was going to spill, of course it was all going to fall in the same direction, onto the floor. Where else could it go?
Who ever gets a second shot at these things? Sooner or later, we all get in up to our necks. Then it s just a question of keeping your face out of the swamp, one stumbling step at a time.
‘I think she might be some kind of weapon, Sylvie.’ ‘So? Aren’t we all?’
I’d felt twinges of the same thing after, the fresh growth of comradeship and united purpose — and I’d ripped it up by the roots every time. That shit will get you killed. Get you used.
Everyone scrabbling for cash. Oligarchical caretakers. Piss-easy control system.

Highlights for Be Like the Fox

His design ‘was to write for a tyrant those things that are pleasing to tyrants, bringing about in this way, if he could, the tyrant’s self-willed and swift downfall’.

Pole warned; beware of this two-faced writer. ‘For it is the aim of his doctrine to act like a drug that causes princes to go mad,’ making them attack their own people with ‘the savagery of the lion and the wiles of the fox’.

They become characters on a stage where he, Niccolò Machiavelli, probes their minds, sizes them up, tries to conceal his misgivings, or holds back his irritation for diplomacy’s sake.

When someone’s game is rotten, Niccolò often suggests – even if it looks like the main one in town, the only one where real men can prove that they are winners – don’t let them force you to play it. Better to make and play by your own rules.

Whoever seeks to act according to others, he later tells his more convention-bound friend Francesco Vettori, will accomplish nothing, because no two men who think alike can be found.

The ideal Medici leader had to seem born to rule while also seeming to think of himself as one of the people. His every move needed to project a double illusion: of natural superiority to every other citizen and a total, easy-going unawareness of that superiority.

Soderini, who was among the first citizens of Florence and by far superior to the others, a man whose prudence and authority were known not only in Florence but among all the princes of Italy, responds: What you call a great victory looks to me like a loss. If you’d won over Volterra by treaty and agreement, you would have had advantage and security from it. But since you have to hold it by force, in adverse times it will bring you weakness and trouble, and in peaceful times, loss and expense.

Plots to overthrow governments, Niccolò often observes, are almost always betrayed by one of the plotters.

And don’t rush to proclaim any policy a great success, for often gain is seen and widely praised in policies at first – especially when they appear bold, surprising, risky – even though there is the ruin of the republic concealed underneath.

The struggle to overcome great difficulties teaches people self-discipline and self-knowledge, not least knowledge of their own resources of mind and spirit, which might go untapped if they had it easy. This makes them tougher than those who have too many hereditary advantages: they are thicker-skinned against those who try to pull them down, more tolerant of the setbacks that face everyone at some time or another.

Whatever the quality of their brains, advisers live in constant fear of saying too much or too little, or the wrong things at the wrong time.

The Machiavelli family win the case, proving on a small scale a point Niccolò will make over and over in his writings: weak families, individuals, cities and peoples should never shy away from fighting those who put them down or take what is theirs.9 Even if they lose some battles, their efforts do them proud, and make life harder for their oppressors.

If you want to maintain your state over time, the only sure way is to arm your own people and keep them satisfied; it’s always safer to found yourself not upon fortresses but upon the benevolence of men.

For when one foresees from afar, one can easily find a remedy for future troubles. But when you wait until they come close to you, the medicine is not in time, because the disease has become incurable.

Niccolò speaks from very personal knowledge when he says that freedom, one knows, is often restored in a city by those who have never tasted it but who loved it only through the memories of it left to them by their fathers. And thus, he continues, once recovered, they preserve it with all obstinacy and at any peril.

Founders of new institutions should assume that a large part of human nature inclines most people to behave badly, at least now and then: to take more than their share of power or wealth, to profit from other people’s weaknesses, to cheat, lie, betray promises. Inclinations like these can’t be rooted out of our species; human nature itself cannot be reformed so that more and more people become reliably angelic.

Sheltered by his patrician family name, Agostino can afford not to take seriously men like della Valle, with their popular or recent peasant origins; social rank trumps official rank. While Ser Antonio’s tantrums make Biagio cringe behind the heap of portfolios on his desk, Agostino merely stares at their office superior as if he were a stray farm animal that has somehow wandered into the city and, stumbling into the refined halls of government, panicked and run amuck.

the two essential, unwritten rules of Florentine diplomacy. One: give them words, good words, be a veritable fountain bubbling over with sweet words; but use every industry to avoid offering them deeds. Two: have at the tip of your tongue a ready arsenal of excuses for not spending money.

But the surest way to win esteem, Niccolò writes in the Prince, is to be a true friend and a true enemy.

Nonetheless, it was hardly a civil thing to violate the laws. For if ignoring legal procedures may do good in one particular case, nonetheless the example does ill. And if one sets up a habit of breaking the [legal and political] orders for the sake of good, then later, under that colouring, they are broken for ill.

The French are more eager for money than for blood.

In adversity they are abject, and in prosperity insolent. If you can resist the fury of their first onslaught, you will find them depressed and so entirely discouraged, that they become cowardly like women.

The cardinal has grown indulgent towards this odd young Florentine, who has no air of inherited greatness yet speaks boldly, with the confidence of sound judgement rather than of birth or rank.

He would later advise envoys to princely courts that they should observe the nature of the man: whether he rules for himself or lets himself be ruled; whether he is stingy or liberal; whether he loves war or peace; whether desire for glory or any other passion moves him, whether the people love him.

This matter is very important; there are men who, through being clever and two-faced, have so completely lost the trust of a prince that they have never afterwards been able to negotiate with him.

One needs to be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten the wolves.

This, for Machiavelli, is the real test of any statesman’s quality: his virtue. And while good fortune can help you conquer states, virtù is what lets you hold them securely.

Those who become princes solely by fortune have it much easier at first, rising to power with little trouble. But when the time comes to consolidate their newfound power, then all the difficulties arise, since these impetuous high-flyers seldom take the time to build up solid foundations for their state. Because of this, princes of fortune tend to be moody, fickle in their policies, even manic – now acting as if nothing could stop them, then losing all confidence at the first failure, as if failure weren’t a normal part of life. Virtuous leaders are far steadier, more trustworthy. They refuse to become arrogant with success or dejected with failure and, if their luck changes for better or for worse, they do not vary but always keep their spirit firm, showing that fortune does not have power over them.

That’s another thing about fortune-dependent types: they tend to think that they’re the only shrewd operators in the room. They can easily deceive others, but never be deceived.

For Niccolò, virtù can mean spiritedness, especially in battle. But the highest-quality virtù includes an aptitude for organization, industry, and far-sighted prudence. It further includes an unclouded knowledge of one’s own limits, the wisdom and self-discipline not to overreach them, and the ingenuity to use whatever opportunities and resources one has, however scarce they might be. Virtù doesn’t need good luck, or even much freedom, to work wonders. On the contrary, it is most admirable, even most effective, where there are obstacles to overcome.

Give men secure work that allows them to feed their families and win public respect, in employments that are the nerve and life of the city, and they’ll become its stoutest defenders.

the knowledge that whatever defects you find in a particular set of men, or in human nature generally, well-designed laws and institutions can hold their defects in check and cultivate virtues you – and perhaps they – didn’t know they had.

Everyone wants to be coddled and esteemed, so that is what someone who finds himself where you are has to do.

A statesman needs to know when to use clemency and when severity.

He did not know, Machiavelli would later write, that one cannot wait for the time, goodness is not enough, fortune varies, and malignity does not find a gift that appeases it.

They committed one of the commonest, most devastating mistakes made in politics and war: when peoples do not know how to put limits to their hopes and measure their own capabilities, they are ruined. In this way, the insolence that victory or the false hope of victory arouses makes men lose the opportunity of having a certain good through hoping to have an uncertain better.

A man’s mind, he muses in The Ass, can’t easily be turned against his nature or habits. Though his brain might warn him of the dangers in honest criticism, his nature forces him to see – and point out – human errors in hopes of correcting them. And in the present age so grudging and evil, one always sees bad more quickly than good.

We lie to each other and start believing our own lies. The ones who come out best are the noisiest babblers and flatterers. They spout platitudes and say nothing. For the herd and their herd-masters only hear what is easy to hear, what they think they already know, keep repeating the same badly reasoned blandness to flatter themselves and their herd-chiefs.

For it is not enough to say: ‘I do not care for anything; I do not desire honours or useful things; I wish to live quietly and without quarrel!’ These excuses won’t be believed if they come from a man notable for his quality, even when such men choose the quiet life truly and without any ambition.

Neither money nor sheer numbers of men make strong armies, he tells his readers, but only people who are motivated to fight to the death. And they’ll be motivated only when they have a real stake in the government they’re expected to defend: when they can make a decent living, feel that they’re treated with public respect, perhaps even take part in politics.

In any city, ancient or modern, one finds an enmity between the great, whatever they call themselves – nobles, patricians, the rich – and the people. This arises because the great everywhere want to dominate, while the people want not to be dominated. The people’s desire is more reasonable than the desire of a few to dominate the many. It follows that governments that seek to satisfy the popular desire are firmer and last longer than those that let a few command the rest.

Moreover, to cure the illness of excessive ambition among the people words are enough ; while for curing the prince’s, steel is needed.

So they should indeed never give up. They have always to hope and, since they hope, not to give up in whatever fortune and whatever travail they may find themselves.

Look at the Germans and the Swiss: they live more simply than we do, and are free and well-armed. Our rich Italians live lavishly and aspire to live even more lavishly, but what freedom we have is constantly threatened by unrest from the poor.

Don’t push your luck when you’re clutching at your last desperate hopes, compromise to cut your losses, save what you can; what you lose now you can recover later.

I’ve had a letter from you that has given me the greatest pleasure. If God grants you and me life, I believe that I may make you a man of good standing, if you are willing to do your share. But you must study hard and take pains to learn letters and music – for you know how much distinction is given me for what little ability I possess. Thus, my son, if you want to please me and to bring profit and honour to yourself, study, do well, and learn, because everyone will help you if you help yourself.

Instead of attacking Florence, imperial forces rapidly move to Rome. On 6 May, they sack the Holy City, the bloodiest attack in living memory, with famished German troops shouting, ‘Vivat Luther Papa!’ as they smash sacred relics and plunder houses, shops, banks.

Highlights for Why We Sleep

Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Scientists such as myself have even started lobbying doctors to start “prescribing” sleep.

Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to explain why we need it.

suprachiasmatic (pronounced soo-pra-kai-as-MAT-ik)

We require more supple work schedules that better adapt to all chronotypes, and not just one in its extreme.

Caffeine—which is not only prevalent in coffee, certain teas, and many energy drinks, but also foods such as dark chocolate and ice cream, as well as drugs such as weight-loss pills and pain relievers—is one of the most common culprits that keep people from falling asleep easily and sleeping soundly thereafter, typically masquerading as insomnia, an actual medical condition.

Their scientists exposed spiders to different drugs and then observed the webs that they constructed.X Those drugs included LSD, speed (amphetamine), marijuana, and caffeine.

Caffeine is also the only addictive substance that we readily give to our children and teens—the consequences of which we will return to later in the book.

Second, can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If the answer is “no,” then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.

Before bed, you diligently set your alarm for 6:00 a.m. Miraculously, however, you woke up at 5:58 a.m., unassisted, right before the alarm.

Have you ever taken a long road trip in your car and noticed that at some point in the journey, the FM radio stations you’ve been listening to begin dropping out in signal strength?

When it comes to information processing, think of the wake state principally as reception (experiencing and constantly learning the world around you), NREM sleep as reflection (storing and strengthening those raw ingredients of new facts and skills), and REM sleep as integration (interconnecting these raw ingredients with each other, with all past experiences, and, in doing so, building an ever more accurate model of how the world works, including innovative insights and problem-solving abilities).

The steady, slow, synchronous waves that sweep across the brain during deep sleep open up communication possibilities between distant regions of the brain, allowing them to collaboratively send and receive their different repositories of stored experience.

The mystery deepens when we consider pinnipeds (one of my all-time favorite words, from the Latin derivatives: pinna “fin” and pedis “foot”), such as fur seals.

I believe a similar story of atypical, but nevertheless present, REM sleep will ultimately be observed in dolphins and whales and seals when in the ocean. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Sleep with both sides of the brain, or sleep with just one side and then switch. Both are possible, but sleep you must. Sleep is non-negotiable.

Both you and the meeting attendees are falling prey to an evolutionarily imprinted lull in wakefulness that favors an afternoon nap, called the post-prandial alertness dip (from the Latin prandium, “meal”).

Apparent from this remarkable study is this fact: when we are cleaved from the innate practice of biphasic sleep, our lives are shortened.

From these clues, I offer a theorem: the tree-to-ground reengineering of sleep was a key trigger that rocketed Homo sapiens to the top of evolution’s lofty pyramid.

Now we can appreciate what I believe to be a classic, self-fulfilling positive cycle of evolution. Our shift from tree to ground sleeping instigated an ever more bountiful amount of relative REM sleep compared with other primates, and from this bounty emerged a steep increase in cognitive creativity, emotional intelligence, and thus social complexity. This, alongside our increasingly dense, interconnected brains, led to improved daily (and nightly) survival strategies. In turn, the harder we worked those increasingly developed emotional and creative circuits of the brain during the day, the greater was our need to service and recalibrate these ever-demanding neural systems at night with more REM sleep.

This phase of development, which infuses the brain with masses of neural connections, is called synaptogenesis, as it involves the creation of millions of wiring links, or synapses, between neurons. By deliberate design, it is an overenthusiastic first pass at setting up the mainframe of a brain. There is a great deal of redundancy, offering many, many possible circuit configurations to emerge within the infant’s brain once born.

As a result of this mismatch, the fetus brain still generates formidable motor commands during REM sleep, except there is no paralysis to hold them back. Without restraint, those commands are freely translated into frenetic body movements, felt by the mother as acrobatic kicks and featherweight punches.

Newborns will normally transition straight into REM sleep after a feeding. Many mothers already know this: almost as soon as suckling stops, and sometimes even before, the infant’s eyelids will close, and underneath, the eyes will begin darting left-right, indicating that their baby is now being nourished by REM sleep.

Sleep accomplishes this by using meaningful tags that have been hung onto those memories during initial learning, or potentially identified during sleep itself.

Sleep powerfully, yet very selectively, boosted the retention of those words previously tagged for “remembering,” yet actively avoided the strengthening of those memories tagged for “forgetting.”

Not without putting too fine a point on it, if you don’t snooze, you lose.

As a result, car crashes caused by drowsiness tend to be far more deadly than those caused by alcohol or drugs. Said crassly, when you fall asleep at the wheel of your car on a freeway, there is now a one-ton missile traveling at 65 miles per hour, and no one is in control.

Approximately 80 percent of truck drivers in the US are overweight, and 50 percent are clinically obese.

One of my true loves is teaching a large undergraduate class on the science of sleep at the University of California, Berkeley.

One night of modest sleep reduction—even just one or two hours—will promptly speed the contracting rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase the systolic blood pressure within their vasculature.

Making matters worse, growth hormone—a great healer of the body—which normally surges at night, is shut off by the state of sleep deprivation.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the switch to daylight savings time in March results in most people losing an hour of sleep opportunity. Should you tabulate millions of daily hospital records, as researchers have done, you discover that this seemingly trivial sleep reduction comes with a frightening spike in heart attacks the following day.

The experimental results support the finding that men suffering from sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea associated with snoring, have significantly lower levels of testosterone than those of similar age and backgrounds but who do not suffer from a sleep condition.

Indeed, journaling your waking thoughts, feelings, and concerns has a proven mental health benefit, and the same appears true of your dreams. A meaningful, psychologically healthy life is an examined one, as Socrates so often declared.

It is sleep that builds connections between distantly related informational elements that are not obvious in the light of the waking day. Our participants went to bed with disparate pieces of the jigsaw and woke up with the puzzle complete.

It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.

If alarming your heart, quite literally, were not bad enough, using the snooze feature means that you will repeatedly inflict that cardiovascular assault again and again within a short span of time.

Sleep deprivation degrades many of the key faculties required for most forms of employment.

But insufficient sleep—another harmful, potentially deadly factor—is commonly tolerated and even woefully encouraged. This mentality has persisted, in part, because certain business leaders mistakenly believe that time on-task equates with task completion and productivity. Even in the industrial era of rote factory work, this was untrue.

The irony that employees miss is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal.

Of note to those in business, many of these studies report deleterious effects on business outcomes on the basis of only very modest reductions in sleep amount within an individual, perhaps twenty- to sixty-minute differences between an employee who is honest, creative, innovate, collaborative, and productive and one who is not.

One in twenty residents will kill a patient due to a lack of sleep.

what if we moved from a stance of analytics (i.e., here is your past and/or current sleep and here is your past and/or current body weight) to that of forward-looking predictalytics?

Even if this software solution decreases flu infection rates by just a small percentage, it will save hundreds of millions of dollars by way of improved immunization efficiency

Rather, this method of routine sleep tracking would help them identify this issue, and cognitive behavioral therapy could be provided through their smartphones.

As a result, the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.

Highlights for Radical Candor

As you probably know, for every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and then anger. You no longer just think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. This makes it harder to have an even-keeled conversation. You start to avoid talking to the person at all.

The only reason it was OK for me to talk to Jared that way was because of the relationship we’d formed over the years.

The point is, rather, that if you are someone who is most comfortable communicating in that way, you have to build relationships of trust that can support it, and you have to hire people who can adapt to your style.

Twenty years ago, management skills were neither taught nor rewarded in Silicon Valley, but today its companies are obsessed with it.

They achieve these results not by doing all the work themselves but by guiding the people on their teams. Bosses guide a team to achieve results.

“Radical Candor” is what happens when you put “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly” together.

My humanity was an attribute, not a liability, to being effective.

A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.

The secret to winning, he said, is to point out to great players what they could have done better, even when they have just won a game.

They know they’ve done some things wrong, but they’re not sure what, exactly. Their direct reports never know where they stand, and they aren’t being given an opportunity to learn or grow; they often stall or get fired. Not such a great way to build a relationship.

Start by getting feedback, in other words, not by dishing it out. Then when you do start giving it, start with praise, not criticism.

Well, stop repressing your innate ability to care personally. Give a damn!

Generally, an ambition or a commitment outside of work enhances a person’s value to the team—that means you get, say, a great artist as your graphic designer, as long as you don’t insist that the artist get on the fast track at work.

What I am saying is we all have periods in our lives when our professional growth speeds up or slows down. Recreation is essential for creation.

Kick-ass bosses never judge people doing great work as having “capped out.” Instead, they treat them with the honor that they are due and retain the individuals who will keep their team stable, cohesive, and productive.

I once had a colleague who’d planned carefully so that when he had his first baby he was in a job that he’d mastered and thus could get home to be with his newborn.

Allowing transfers is important because it prevents bosses from blackballing employees who want to move on, and allows for the fact that sometimes two people just don’t work that well together.

In many ways, your job as the boss is to set and uphold a quality bar. That can feel harsh in the short term, but in the long run the only thing that is meaner is lowering the bar.

The fact is that poor performers often create as much extra work for others as they accomplish themselves, because they leave parts of their job undone or do other parts sloppily or behave unprofessionally in ways that others must compensate for.

When a highly successful person takes a job with a new company and the “fit” isn’t right, it can be painful for everyone. If neither the culture nor the individual can change, it’s best to part ways. You generally can’t fix a cultural-fit issue.

The truth is, people really do change. Somebody who’s been on a gradual growth trajectory may suddenly become restless and yearn for a new challenge at work. Or, a person who’s been on a steep growth trajectory for years may be craving a period of stability. This is another reason why you have to manage. Being a great boss involves constantly adjusting to the new reality of the day or week or year as it unfolds.

Too many bosses think their role is to turn it off—to avoid all the friction by simply making a decision and sparing the team the pain of debate. It’s not. Debate takes time and requires emotional energy. But lack of debate saps a team of more time and emotional energy in the long run.

That is why kick-ass bosses often do not decide themselves, but rather create a clear decision-making process that empowers people closest to the facts to make as many decisions as possible. Not only does that result in better decisions, it results in better morale.

The essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances.

The time you spend at work can be an expression of who you are as a human being, an enormous enrichment to your life, and a boon to your friends and family.

You can guide your team to get results if you’ve built a trusting relationship with each person reporting to you, and there can only be real trust when people feel free at work. The first rule of building the kind of relationship with the people that will make them feel free at work is to relinquish unilateral authority.

You already spend a lot of hours every day with your colleagues and direct reports. Use that time to build relationships. For the most part, it’s better to use the time after work to keep yourself centered than to socialize with work colleagues.

Too many managers fear that public challenge will undermine their authority. It’s natural to want to repress dissent, but a good reaction to public criticism can be the very thing that establishes your credibility as a strong leader, and will help you build a culture of guidance.

“Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”

Don’t let the fact that you can’t offer a solution make you reluctant to offer guidance. Think about times that guidance has been most helpful to you, and offer it in that spirit.

So let me reiterate: impromptu guidance really, truly is something you can squeeze in between meetings in three minutes or less. If you give it right away in between meetings, you will not only save yourself a subsequent meeting but also deliver the guidance in less time than it would take you to schedule the subsequent meeting. And the quality of your guidance will be much better.

Often the reason why you’ll be tempted not to deliver guidance in person is that you are trying to avoid seeing the other person’s emotional reaction. This is natural. But the quality of your guidance will improve if you’re present for these feelings.

Once people got to know him well, they realized he wasn’t a jerk, he was just super intense; in fact, he cared as deeply about his colleagues as he did about the quality of the work they did together.

Part of your job as a boss (and as a human being) is to acknowledge and deal with emotional responses, not to dismiss or avoid them.

If you find you cannot be Radically Candid with your boss, I recommend that you consider finding a new job with a new boss.

Andy Grove had a mantra at Intel that we borrowed to describe leadership at Apple: Listen, Challenge, Commit. A strong leader has the humility to listen, the confidence to challenge, and the wisdom to know when to quit arguing and to get on board.

We must stop gender politics.

And even if the ratings aren’t lower, selection for promotion and leadership roles depend heavily on “likeability.”

That wasted people’s time (a cardinal sin for a boss)

In these meetings, which need to happen only once a year to be effective, you will meet with the people who work for your direct reports, without your direct reports in the room, and ask what they could do or stop doing to be better bosses.

The more visible the change, the better. Review these changes in a follow-up to the skip level meeting, and encourage the team to tell you whether or not they made a difference. If people feel that no changes were made, or that the meeting didn’t make a difference, treat this very seriously.

The first conversation is designed to learn what motivates each person who reports directly to you.

The second conversation moves from understanding what motivates people to understanding the person’s dreams—what they want to achieve at the apex of their career, how they imagine life at its best to feel.

Once people were clear on what they wanted to learn next, it was much easier for managers to identify opportunities at work that would help them develop skills in the next six to eighteen months that would take them in the direction of at least one of their dreams.

All hiring is flawed and subjective, and these drawbacks cannot be fixed; they can only be managed.

Firing people is not easy, either emotionally or legally. At companies where it’s too easy to fire people, bad/unfair firing decisions get made, with the result that even people who are great at their jobs start to get spooked. When people feel that kind of fear, they start to avoid taking risks. They learn less, they grow less, they innovate less, they become less than they could be.

The importance of the simplest things, like thank-yous, are most often forgotten by bosses—even good bosses.

Here’s the agenda that I’ve found to be most effective:

■    Learn: review key metrics (twenty minutes)

■    Listen: put updates in a shared document (fifteen minutes)

■    Clarify: identify key decisions & debates (thirty minutes)

Most people hate to be excluded from decisions relevant to them, but they hate attending meetings that are irrelevant to them even more. With a little transparency, it all sorts itself out.

Measuring activities and visualizing workflows will push you and your team to make sure you really understand how what you all do drives success—or doesn’t.

Notice the things you don’t notice when you’re buried in work at your desk or racing, head down, from one meeting to the next. Ask people who catch your attention—ideally, people you haven’t talked to in a while—what they’re working on. Find some small problems and treat them like “the universe through a grain of sand.”

Highlights for No Name in the Street

Incontestably, alas, most people are not, in action, worth very much; and yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they’ve become.

I was not the same, but they were, as though they had been trapped, preserved, in that moment in time.

They should have known me better, or at least enough, to have known that I meant what I said. But the general reaction to famous people who hold difficult opinions is that they can’t really mean it. It’s considered, generally, to be merely an astute way of attracting public attention, a way of making oneself interesting: one marches in Montgomery, for example, merely (in my own case) to sell one’s books.

This means that one must accept one’s nakedness. And nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.

This is the way people react to the loss of empire—for the loss of an empire also implies a radical revision of the individual identity—and I was to see this over and over again, not only in France.

Thus, the exploitation of the colony’s resources was done for the good of the natives; and so vocal could the French become as concerns what they had brought into their colonies that it would have been the height of bad manners to have asked what they had brought out.

Not without warning, and not without precedent: but only poets, since they must excavate and recreate history, have ever learned anything from it.

For, intellectual activity, according to me, is, and must be, disinterested—the truth is a two-edged sword—and if one is not willing to be pierced by that sword, even to the extreme of dying on it, then all of one’s intellectual activity is a masturbatory delusion and a wicked and dangerous fraud.

Nevertheless, this learned, civilized, intellectual-liberal debate cheerfully raged in its vacuum, while every hour brought more distress and confusion—and dishonor—to the country they claimed to love.

But they had no right not to know that; if they did not know that, they knew nothing and had no right to speak as though they were responsible actors in their society;

I may have been romantic about London—because of Charles Dickens—but the romance lasted for exactly as long as it took me to carry my bags out of Victoria Station.

Four hundred years in the West had certainly turned me into a Westerner—there was no way around that. But four hundred years in the West had also failed to bleach me—there was no way around that, either

It is power, not justice, which keeps rearranging the map, and the Algerians were not fighting the French for justice (of which, indeed, they must have had their fill by that time) but for the power to determine their own destinies.

One may see that the history, which is now indivisible from oneself, has been full of errors and excesses; but this is not the same thing as seeing that, for millions of people, this history—oneself—has been nothing but an intolerable yoke, a stinking prison, a shrieking grave. It is not so easy to see that, for millions of people, life itself depends on the speediest possible demolition of this history, even if this means the leveling, or the destruction of its heirs.

Everybody else was paying their dues, and it was time I went home and paid mine.

I was old enough to recognize how deep and strangling were my fears, how manifold and mighty my limits: but no one can demand more of life than that life do him the honor to demand that he learn to live with his fears, and learn to live, every day, both within his limits and beyond them.

But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

It was as though he were wrestling with the mighty fact that the danger in which he stood was as nothing compared to the spiritual horror which drove those who were trying to destroy him. They endangered him, but they doomed themselves.

Every Southern city seemed to me to have been but lately rescued from the swamps, which were patiently waiting to reclaim it. The people all seemed to remember their time under water, and to be both dreading and anticipating their return to that freedom from responsibility.

Every white face turned to stone: the arrival of the messenger of death could not have had a more devastating effect than the appearance in the restaurant doorway of a small, unarmed, utterly astounded black man. I had realized my error as soon as I opened the door: but the absolute terror on all these white faces—I swear that not a soul moved—paralyzed me. They stared at me, I stared at them.

One has only to remember that American investments cannot be considered safe wherever the population cannot be considered tractable; with this in mind, consider the American reaction to the Jew who boasts of sending arms to Israel, and the probable fate of an American black who wishes to stage a rally for the purpose of sending arms to black South Africa.

Force does not work the way its advocates seem to think it does. It does not, for example, reveal to the victim the strength of his adversary. On the contrary, it reveals the weakness, even the panic of his adversary, and this revelation invests the victim with patience. Furthermore, it is ultimately fatal to create too many victims. The victor can do nothing with these victims, for they do not belong to him, but—to the victims.

Malcolm considered himself to be the spiritual property of the people who produced him. He did not consider himself to be their saviour, he was far too modest for that, and gave that role to another; but he considered himself to be their servant and in order not to betray that trust, he was willing to die, and died.

She was far safer walking the streets alone than when walking with me—a brutal and humiliating fact which thoroughly destroyed whatever relationship this girl and I might have been able to achieve. This happens all the time in America, but Americans have yet to realize what a sinister fact this is, and what it says about them.

I am astonished until today that I have both my eyes and most of my teeth and functioning kidneys and my sexual equipment: but small black boys have the advantage of being able to curl themselves into knots, and roll with the kicks and the punches.

But everything that might have charmed me merely reminded me of how many were excluded, how many were suffering and groaning and dying, not far from a paradise which was itself but another circle of hell

In the village, as in the ghetto, those who were not dangerous before the search-and-destroy operation assuredly become so afterward, for the inhabitants of the village, like the inhabitants of the ghetto, realize that they are identified, judged, menaced, murdered, solely because of the color of their skin.

The prison is overcrowded, the calendars full, the judges busy, the lawyers ambitious, and the cops zealous. What does it matter if someone gets trapped here for a year or two, gets ruined here, goes mad here, commits murder or suicide here? It’s too bad, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

Billy spoke the truth, but it’s hard to shame the devil.

White America remains unable to believe that black America’s grievances are real; they are unable to believe this because they cannot face what this fact says about themselves and their country; and the effect of this massive and hostile incomprehension is to increase the danger in which all black people live here, especially the young.

This unhappy failing will prove to be especially aggravated in the case of the American rulers, who have never heard of history and who have never read it, who do not know what the passion of a people can withstand or what it can accomplish, or how fatal is the moment, for the kingdom, when the passion is driven underground.

To study the economic structure of this country, to know which hands control the wealth, and to which end, seems an academic exercise—and yet it is necessary, all of it is necessary, for discipline, for knowledge, and for power.

I know what I would do if I had a gun and someone had a gun pointed at my brother, and I would not count ten to do it and there would be no hatred in it, nor any remorse. People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Highlights for Neoreaction a Basilisk

Angela Nagle’s appalling Kill All Normies, which takes the jaw-droppingly foolish methodology of simply reporting all of the alt-right’s self-justifications as self-evident truths so as to conclude that the real reason neo-nazis have been sweeping into power is because we’re too tolerant of trans people.

This brings us to our second relatively uninteresting question, which is what to do about the alt-right. In this case the answer is even easier and more obvious than the first: you smash their bases of power, with violent resistance if necessary. If you want a more general solution that also takes care of the factors that led to a bunch of idiot racists being emboldened in the first place you drag all the billionaires out of their houses and put their heads on spikes.

The lethal meme, known as Roko’s Basilisk, used the peculiarities of Yudkowskian thought to posit a future AI that would condemn to eternal torture everyone from the present who had ever imagined it if they subsequently failed to do whatever they could to bring about its existence.

I want to be clear, with all possible sincerity, that I love the braggadocio here. I want what he is selling. Yes, Mencius, savagely tear away the veil of lies with which I cope with the abject horror that is reality and reveal to me the awful, agonizing truth of being. Give me the red pill. The problem is, once we get our golf ball-sized reality distortion pill home, put on some Laibach, and settle in for an epic bout of Thanatosian psychedelia, we discover the unfortunate truth: we’re actually just huffing paint in an unhygienic gas station bathroom. Jesus, this isn’t even bat country.

By “crap,” of course, I do not mean “wrong.” Rather, I mean obvious, in the sense of sounding like the guy at the bar watching the news (probably Fox) and muttering about how “they’re all a bunch of crooks.” Liberal democracy a hopelessly inadequate and doomed system preserved by a system of continual indoctrination? You don’t say.

And this really is stunningly weird in the context of all his red pill rhetoric about the corrupt horrors of liberal democracy. Because while there are a great many obvious critiques of contemporary society, “there’s just not enough respect for profit” really doesn’t feel like one of them.

With this, we have a genuinely tricky moment, simply because of the sheer and unbridled number of unexamined assumptions going on here.

But all the same, if you’re going to talk about suppressed ideologies that oppose the interests of entrenched power, you’ve really got to talk about the original red pill: Marxism.

It is tempting to suggest that Moldbug is a failed Marxist in the sense that Jupiter is a failed star, its mass falling tantalizingly short of the tipping point whereby nuclear fusion begins. Over and over again, Moldbug asks questions much like those that Marx asked, and his answers begin with many of the same initial observations. But inevitably, a few steps in, he makes some ridiculously broad generalization or fails to consider some obvious alternative possibility, and the train of thought fizzles into characteristic idiocy.

This sort of “the world can be saved if only everyone listens to me” narcissism belongs in the genre of fiction, where it can accomplish something, and not in the visionary manifesto, where it only reveals its own impotence.

That is not to say they can get away with being wrong, at least not straightforwardly so, but it is to reiterate that the key problem with Moldbug, Yudkowsky, and Land is that they are in key regards uninteresting—that they offer dull and unsatisfying answers to their most compelling questions, of which “hang out with a bunch of racist nerdbros” is merely the worst.

Terence McKenna’s suggestion that DMT is an alien intelligence’s attempt to communicate directly with the human brain

That’s the whole point of the right to exit—a final and decisive rescue of individual liberty at all costs. But exiting requires that people stay behind; if we all go, we’ll just have to storm out again. The entire point of the project is to separate the wheat from the chaff.

He posits that in this situation the “absolute limit to our ability to adequately understand the world at all” becomes increasingly relevant, and observes that this is a frequent theme of both philosophy and horror.

The truth is that, despite Land’s evident fascination with them, the bulk of neoreactionaries are not people one would want to have a beer with, and there’s not a great case for reading their books either.

Yudkowsky isn’t just running from error; he’s running from the idea of authority. The real horror of the Basilisk is that the AI at the end of the universe is just another third grade teacher who doesn’t care if you understand the material, just if you apply the rote method being taught.

Hauntology comes from within us; the Weird from outside.

The red pill, pwnage, and for that matter the horror reading, monstrous offspring, and Satanic inversions all follow the same basic pattern—a sort of conceptual infiltration of someone’s thought in which their own methods and systems are used against them.

It is, after all, the great one-liner critique of Mencius Moldbug: he’s exactly what you’d expect to happen if you asked a software engineer to redesign political philosophy. And crucially, Moldbug basically agrees with it—he just also genuinely believes that the Silicon Valley “disruptor” crowd would be capable of running the world with no problems if only people would let them.

Which is to say, Satan opens by negging Eve, accusing her of looking at him “with disdain, Displeas’d that I approach thee thus, and gaze Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feard Thy awful brow,”112 which may be the earliest instance of telling someone they have resting bitch face.

In the face of an ecologically brutal planet, the guys with guns and tribal loyalties are a depressingly compelling bet to stick around.

With Moldbug the sense is overwhelmingly that empathy just never crossed his mind as something to factor into his design. He flat out didn’t think of it. Yudkowsky, on the other hand, thinks about it a lot and cares very deeply about it; he’s just incompetent at it.

The result of this approach is that Yudkowsky, without really meaning to, tends to look at everyone else in the world as inefficient Eliezer Yudkowskys instead of people as such.

Moldbug, Yudkowsky, and Land don’t just “do poorly” with empathy—they represent the most visible and explicit edge of a Cathedral-scaled system of values that casts the desire to listen and try to understand people who are different from you as anathema to reason itself.

This forces us to consider white culture as a set of perpetual ruins—as something that has always been lost, and that can only be apprehended as a tenuous and incomplete reconstruction.

No, what’s really notable here is Moldbug’s doe-eyed certainty that such a thing as an absolute truth service could be built; that there is a general plan of action so self-evidently compelling that if he only expressed it properly everyone would immediately flock to his side. In short, after thousands of words railing against the Cathedral for secretly being a religion, he’s accidentally reinvented religion. And then lost the holy text. You couldn’t parody it better.

They have that marvelous feature of the best gods: perfectly answering a question you didn’t know you had.

And a few, such as Ahania, are genuinely breathtaking in their scope: a pleasure goddess representing intellectual curiosity who is bound in a Persephone-like structure of death and rebirth is a metaphysical/literary construct to rival Milton’s Satan, and one Blake barely scratches the surface of.

And it’s hard not to suggest that the world would be a better place if Yudkowsky had stuck to children’s literature for adult geeks as opposed to starting a weird AI cult that derails efforts to curtail malaria.

And while Gamergate usually doesn’t have a product to sell in quite the same literal way, it’s worth noting how, for instance, two doors down from them is someone like Stefan Molyneux, whose output amounts to 30-60 minute PowerPoint presentations consisting of a by-now familiar sort of low-content dissembling, and whose business endgame is literally a cult.

The Gamergate narrative has always required a vast quasi-conspiracy to function, some story whereby feminists or SJWs or cultural Marxists exercise near-complete control over video games and video game journalism.

Not even a monoculture then—an anticulture, with Vivian James ironically its perfect representation. It’s a desire to befit their worldview, its adamance dwarfed only by its fundamental emptiness. There’s nothing there. There’s never been anything there.

And Gamergate as a whole is scarcely better. It’s always been notable for its near-complete lack of actual discussion of videogames.

More interesting is where his basic inclination towards racial stereotyping originates from: the material realities of New York real estate, its patterns of historical ethnic migrations geologically stratified across the city’s expansion.

He might have had a name. But then he literally built a six-hundred-and-sixty-six foot tower to which he offered up that name, sacrificing it upon its black altar such that the building became a titanic sigil of the sixteenth Major Arcana of the Tarot of the Golden Dawn, symbolizing destruction and ruin, with only the remnants of the man whose name it ate living within the rotting heart of its penthouse.

He sold his name, yes, but what did he get out of the deal? The answer, simply put, is what he would hereafter treat as his most valuable asset: his brand. In short, he became a creature of pure image.

But it also includes the raw allostatic load of living under his rule; the basic psychological wear and tear of waking up every morning in a post-fact world dominated by a bullying narcissist. The act of living in a world where the basic validity of your identity is contingent and perpetually imperiled, where the very definition of “fact” is in dispute, and where a brutish logic of dominance and humiliation pervades the entire social order.

Individuals can act all they want. They won’t make the end of the world go away, any more than their freedom to quit work can make them free to not starve

It helps that one can be against today’s racist wars—though not on the grounds of anti-racism, except of the most specious variety—while quietly accepting and utilising the racial inequities inherited from the racist imperialism of the past. As usual, reactionary thinking is dependant upon amnesia.

It admits that value is a mental construct, but one that is ‘real’ because it has a real social basis and real social effects. Value, for Marx, is neither a thing nor an essence, neither quality nor spirit. It is a social reality because of what humans actually do.

Theoretically detached from the objective and the material, and connected to business as a client, mainstream economics has become—to a large extent—an ideological discourse.

This is how Moldbug and Thiel’s view that democracy is incompatible with liberty arises. A democracy is a society in which the mass of the population—who are, by definition, mostly without property—can shape policy so that it curtails the freedom of the propertied to make their choices. In a free society—by their definition—the capitalists get to make their choices unfettered.

For the Austrians, democracy is to blame for capitalism going into crisis. Democracy breeds special claims by people who are not really concerned with making the choices that regulate the economy. The people without a big stake—the masses—thus destabilise the system.

This is the so-called Austrian ‘Business Cycle.’ Boiled right down: crashes and recessions happen because central banks set interest rates too low. Easy credit results, which screws up market signals. Loaners go crazy. Bubbles inflate and burst. Such lopsided production can only be remedied via letting interest rates rise to their ‘natural’ rate. In other words, the Austrian prescription is: let the crisis rip. It will be harsher but quicker. The only cure for god’s wrath is to wait for the plague to exhaust itself.

Opposition to democracy is entailed by the Austrian view of how capitalism works. Democracy is the rule of the ignorant and selfish public, and the state is their tyrannical arm. Moronic majoritarianism wields unjustifiable power over the propertied and the entrepreneurs who are, for Hayek for instance, almost promethean artists in their special sensitivity and understanding.

The logically consequent idea that emergency dictatorship may be necessary to preserve liberal society from democracy is in neoliberalism’s source code. Neoliberalism, contrary to myth, is an authoritarian ideology, committed to defending property and wealth by violence both physical and structural.

The leaders of Rothbard’s revolution would be the libertarians and the minarchists. The troops would be the masses, spurred to fight the elites. And the spurring would take the form of appeals to racism.

The disproportionate number of former-libertarians in American fascism is revealing because conservatives are far more numerous in America than libertarians, which suggests that libertarianism is statistically over-represented.

The Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory now espoused across the alt-right is a reiteration of what the (actual) Nazis called kulturbolschewismus, an idea central to Nazi dogma, about degenerate art and culture being manufactured by Jewish communists to undermine the unity of the German people. The resurrection and repackaging of this idea across a movement soaked in libertarianism is not surprising, because antagonism to socialism goes right back to the dawn of libertarianism, to the Austrian School’s foundational and self-chosen role as the intellectual foe of Marx.

People might not necessarily formulate their objections to the content of newspapers that way, but they’re nevertheless absenting themselves from daily exposure to one of the main means by which the ruling class produce ideology and public consent. This is at least as big a concern to the people running the media as the need to claw back profits.

In all of these cases, the strategy is to play on insecurities of young men in an age where there are mounting ideological challenges out there—especially on the Internet—to their untroubled social privilege. Coupled with the twin legacies of decades of neoliberalism—increasing ideological and political disorientation, and a future far less secure than that which faced their parents and grandparents at their age—such challenges can terrify the semi-privileged layer of young, white, middle class men, who enjoy all those privileges without also enjoying actual material security.

Reactionary politics once again takes advantage of having a wide batrachian mouth, both sides of which may be used for talking.

The reason actions don’t lead inevitably to goals isn’t because there are complex material structures of oppression that heavily shape people’s lives, but because we exist in linear time. Not only does Rothbard not connect time to what dominates it for most people in capitalist society—work—but hilariously, he doesn’t even bother connecting time to its ultimate horror and constraint, death.

To quote the monster directly: “Milton produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature.” Marx would like all labour to be like that, and sees no fundamental reason why it shouldn’t.

It’s pretty clear that the Austrian School doesn’t even remotely care about this fact, but it doesn’t inherently contradict anything they say. But that is, in the end, the point, and one I’ve made before: they don’t care. That’s clear, in a sense, all the way back in the basic axiom, with its active foregrounding of the heroic individual acting upon the world, as opposed to the state of affairs that most actual people experience, which is mostly being buffeted around by various external forces, whether they be governments, history, or the class system. Indeed, “individual human beings are acted upon” would be every bit as justifiable an axiom as “individual human beings act,” if not moreso.

They have been hugging Marxism on the brink of the Reichenbach Falls for a century and a half, staring into its eyes, but have never really seen it.

Mises’ only invocation of courage is in the context of statesmen standing up to labor unions. Decency only comes up in the context of “laws of morality and decency.” And his sole mention of kindness is a complete and grotesque misunderstanding of the very concept as he declares that “the indigent has no claim to the kindness shown to him,” as if being unearned isn’t the entire fucking point of kindness. It is a conception of human action without a shred of concern for empathy – human action devoid of all humanity.

But the real reason for this is that, more than anyone else, Marx provided an alternative to the charade on which their entire philosophical edifice was constructed. He showed the need for the destruction of that which, to them, gives the world meaning—and a method by which it might be achieved.

Given that no small number of conspiracy theories are, in point of fact, anti-Semitic, any attempt to uncritically synthesize them will be as well.

Icke’s theory is much the same way. We know wealthy elites control our minds. Knowing they’re lizards (or, for that matter, Jews) doesn’t actually change anything. It is, to borrow a phrase, malignantly useless knowledge.

Not only does nothing follow from Icke’s conclusions, nothing follows within the argument itself. Icke does not so much lay out a case for the lizard people as blunder among vague associations, hoping that the aggregate of a bunch of extremely tenuous connections will somehow be persuasive instead of a discombobulated mess of shoddy research and sloppy reasoning.

The history of the world consists of a lot of wealthy assholes sleeping with each other and killing people. Changing up which assholes slept with and killed who doesn’t actually make much of a difference.

Ridiculous arguments, especially ones that recognize their absurdity, are capable of revealing things that do not follow obviously, if at all, from self-consciously serious approaches, but that are nevertheless true and valuable realizations.

So is his inclination to be skeptical of the “official” version of history. The value of this, to be clear, is not simply skepticism for its own sake (an approach that is just as likely to lead to things like climate change denial or creationism as it is to some productive insight), but rather the realization that, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors, and the standard version of history is inevitably the one that most flatters those in power.

It is not entirely clear why monstrous truth must take reptilian form, but just as the weird turns instinctively to tentacles and the hauntological inevitably drifts towards skulls, for some reason awful truth must take the form of a reptile, whether a petrifying basilisk or just a bunch of pan-dimensional aliens.

This is a leftist book, and so must engage in a circular firing squad at least once.

This set a pattern whereby trans rights were repeatedly employed by the gay rights movement as a bargaining chip—as the thing they were pointedly willing to sell out in the name of compromise, as they spectacularly did when lobbying for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which excluded trans people in every version that was brought to Congress prior to 2009.

Thiel’s vision of corporate success is blatantly just the Moldbug/Land vision of how authoritarian capitalism will save us from the Great Filter.

Rather, it’s that once you’re willing to question the basic fact of Thiel’s competence it rapidly becomes apparent that the only actual evidence for this competence is that he has a lot of money.

And his fascination with seasteading numbers him among the litany of people interested in micronations, which is such a rich vein of complete crackpottery that I’d hate to deprive you of the pleasure of Googling it. This borders on the investment portfolio you’d get if you gave David Icke several billion dollars.

Who would craft such a thing as the alt-right? Only a fucking idiot. What other answer were we possibly going to find? It’s been idiots all the way down. And so of course even its billionaire supervillains bankrolling world-conquering AIs, vampiric life extension, and Donald Trump are idiots. This borders on “A is A.” And yet for all its obviousness, it captures what is perhaps the key realization about the alt-right—one that’s been implicit through much of this book, but is worth making explicit as we come to a close: they’re stupid.

I do not suggest this to diminish their horror. Far from it: the essential horror of the abyss is stupidity. That’s why it’s an abyss. The unique and exquisite danger of stupidity is that by its nature, it is beyond reason. There is nothing that can be said to it, because by definition it wouldn’t understand. It is an ur-basilisk—the one terrifying possibility that haunts every single argument that has ever been made. It is a move without response, playing by no rules other than its own, which do not generally include any obligation towards consistency. It is, in its way, the only approach that can never lose an argument. And in the alt-right and its affiliates we have one of the most staggeringly vast nexuses of raw stupidity the world has ever crafted.

Highlights for Bluets

This is a simple story, but it spooks me, insofar as it reminds me that the eye is simply a recorder, with or without our will. Perhaps the same could be said of the heart. But whether there is a violence at work here remains undecided.

Last night I wept in a way I haven’t wept for some time. I wept until I aged myself. I watched it happen in the mirror. I watched the lines arrive around my eyes like engraved sunbursts; it was like watching flowers open in time-lapse on a windowsill.

The only exception was Holland, which, for inscrutable reasons, wanted a murky, rainbow-hued abstraction.

Joan Mitchell, for one, customarily chose her pigments for their intensity rather than their durability—a choice that, as many painters know, can in time bring one’s paintings into a sorry state of decay. (Is writing spared this phenomenon?)

But I am inclined to think that anyone who thinks or talks this way has simply never felt the pulsing of a pussy in serious need of fucking—a pulsing that communicates nothing less than the suckings and ejaculations of the heart.

I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one’s memory—that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve.

But if writing does displace the idea—if it extrudes it, as it were, like grinding a lump of wet clay through a hole—where does the excess go? “We don’t want to pollute our world with leftover egos” (Chögyam Trungpa).

I have heard that this pain can be converted, as it were, by accepting “the fundamental impermanence of all things.” This acceptance bewilders me: sometimes it seems an act of will; at others, of surrender.

The tepid “there must be a reason for it” notion sometimes floated by religious or quasi-religious acquaintances or bystanders, is, to her, another form of violence.

Likewise, I can say that seeing it has made me a believer, though I cannot say what, or in what, exactly, I have come to believe.

As her witness, I can testify to no reason, no lesson. But I can say this: in watching her, sitting with her, helping her, weeping with her, touching her, and talking with her, I have seen the bright pith of her soul. I cannot tell you what it looks like, exactly, but I can say that I have seen it.

Highlights for A Contest of Ideas

One cannot chart a course of social action without understanding the world in which one lives, works, and struggles.

The rise of a system of global supply chains, with their multilayered set of factories, vendors, and transport links, has created a world system in which legal ownership of the forces of production have been divorced from operational control. This shift has generated a system in which accountability for labor conditions is legally diffused and knowledge of the actual producers is far from transparent.

Like the global retailers of our time, they favored free trade, a weak regulatory state, transnational production, and cheap, if not unfree, labor.

Most auto industry foremen took home wages about 25 percent higher than the men they supervised. More important, their paycheck was a good deal more predictable because managers sought to keep a core of experienced men employed even during large layoffs. Such employment stability enabled foremen to purchase solid houses in the better working-class neighborhoods and maintain a standard of living that approached that of the lower middle class.

Freemasonry stood for brotherhood and respectability and propagated a creed of sober self-improvement, conventional morality, and class harmony.

However, on a deeper social and psychological level, the foremen’s union orientation proved a tribute to the ability of a newly mobilized working class to sweep into its orbit whole social strata that in more socially quiescent times might have opposed it.

The Reuther plan nevertheless cast a long shadow, for it contained hallmarks of the strategic approach that was so characteristic of labor-liberalism in the 1940s: an assault on management’s traditional power made in the name of economic efficiency and the public interest, and an effort to shift power relations within the structure of industry and politics, usually by means of a tripartite governmental entity empowered to plan for whole sections of the economy.

Its vision and its power attracted a species of political animal that is hardly existent today: the “labor-liberal,” who saw organized labor as absolutely central to the successful pursuit of his or her political agenda.

The fight for collective bargaining, they argued, had to remain secondary to the more important goal of racial betterment, which could only be achieved by “good will, friendly understanding, and mutual respect and co-operation between the races.”

Others rejected the influence of people who “have always told us what the white people want, but somehow or other are particularly silent on what we want.” “

The union hall, only a few blocks from the Reynolds Building, housed a constant round of meetings, plays, and musical entertainments, as well as classes in labor history, black history, and current events.

The activists encouraged the city’s blacks to participate in electoral politics. “Politics IS food, clothes, and housing,” declared the committee that registered some seven hundred new black voters in the months before the 1944 elections.

With almost one hundred thousand black workers organized in the Detroit area, black union activists played a central role in the civil rights struggle.

Soon after the war, the company began a mechanization campaign that eliminated several predominantly black departments.

But most historians came to see the world of working-class politics as a venue in which a genuinely progressive, multiracial ethos had the best chance to realize itself. This was because the unions, for all their imperfections, were sites of racial empowerment, sometimes within a genuinely integrated context, but perhaps even more as political entities in which black caucuses and factions could emerge in an organic fashion, as they did in unions representing workers in the steel, packinghouse, auto, shipbuilding, and railroad industries in years that long preceded the 1960s.

The responsibilities and expectations of American citizenship—due process, free speech, the right of assembly and petition—would now find their place in factory, mill, and office. A civil society would be constructed within the very womb of the privately held enterprise.

During those dramatic years in the early 1960s, when demonstrations and marches led by Martin Luther King and other militants pushed civil rights to the top of the social agenda, the entire discourse of American liberalism shifted decisively out of the New Deal–labor orbit and into a world in which the racial divide colored all politics.

From the early 1960s onward, the most legitimate, and in many instances the most potent, defense of American job rights would be found not through collective initiative, as codified in the Wagner Act and advanced by the trade unions, but through an individual’s claim to his or her civil rights based on race, gender, age, or other attribute.

That’s true, because this recent advance in social legislation arises not out of the potency of the American labor left, which has been in retreat, but relies instead on the enormous political legitimacy amassed by the civil rights movement and its many rights-conscious heirs.

This is because solidarity is not just a song or a sentiment but requires a measure of coercion that can enforce the social bond when not all members of the organization—or the picket line—are in full agreement. Unions are combat organizations, and solidarity is not just another word for majority rule, especially when their existence is at stake. Thus, in recent decades, employer antiunionism has become increasingly oriented toward the ostensible protection of the individual rights of workers as against undemocratic unions and restrictive contracts that hamper the free choice of employees.

As anti-sweatshop and human rights advocates are now rediscovering, no consistent regulation is really possible without hearing from the workers themselves, and their voices will remain silent unless they have some institution that protects them from the consequences of speaking up.

Thus, the same species of rights-conscious liberalism that abolished racial segregation, ended McCarthyism, and legalized women’s rights has also undermined the legal basis of union power and turned solidarity into a quaint and antique notion.

Rights consciousness therefore transfers authority into the hands of another body—a court, a panel, a government agency—to sort out the various claims and strike the approximate balance. Justice may be served for a particular individual, or even an entire class, but not always through a system of participatory debate and democratic decision making.

In the United States workers have used the new workers rights that emerged out of the civil rights movement to democratize gender and racial hierarchies, only to see their real security and opportunities undermined by the dramatic transformation of a working environment over which they have had little control.

First, the unions must themselves champion the rights impulse so that it does not become the presumptive property of the corporations, the free marketers, or even the human rights NGOs. To flourish again trade unionism does require civil rights and human rights and their vigorous enforcement in every global workplace.

Like the socialists of Europe and the industrial democrats of New Deal America, trade unionism requires a transformative vision to sustain its moral and institutional existence, to link individual rights and social purpose.

Like many other American progressives, both were enthusiasts for Mussolini-style corporatism. Fascism’s appeal to such liberals was found in its experimental nature, its antidogmatic temper, and its moral élan.

The 1935 Wagner Act did offer as its key rationale the establishment of industrial peace, but only after providing guarantees that genuinely independent trade unions had the power and solidarity to meet with their capitalist adversaries on a terrain that gave to labor the economic and political power necessary to cut a negotiated bargain.

In a pattern that really did have a fascist character, Southern elites had long figured out how to mobilize a big slice of the white working class in the interest of a reactionary and violently oppressive racial order. Thus the bitter resistance to the civil rights movement and to the implementation of school desegregation, which reached its apogee in the 1950s, was just the most overt manifestation of the reactionary manipulation of popular white sentiment—a sentiment that had first become apparent when Southern elites confronted New Deal statutes covering crop allotments, minimum wages, welfare payments, worker rights, and voting procedures.

In many of these authoritarian states, opposition movements that were defeated in 1968 reemerged a decade or more later, providing the leadership and a good deal of the spirit for the “velvet revolutions” that brought down the Eastern European regimes in 1989.

Mark Lilla has reminded us,

There was a tension between what capitalist society required of its citizens as producers and the habits it fostered in them as consumers. This contradiction, Bell wrote, would leave advanced capitalist societies without the moral basis they needed for continued prosperity and cohesion.

All revolutions, successful or not, link a transformation of the cultural and ideological terrain with a shift in power and governance.

There were culture wars in the 1930s as well as in later decades; one reason FDR was such a polarizing figure was that he embodied in his administration and in his persona the “class treason” that was so hateful to a generation of Yankee conservatives who had been the natural arbitrators of power and taste for so many decades.

The longest-standing argument against public sector unionism rests on the idea that such collective bargaining by workers in the public sector undercuts the sovereignty of government. The second idea is that public sector unionism makes government too expensive and sets a standard that private industry cannot meet. And the third conservative argument, which reflects the rise in recent years of an intense hostility to the very idea of a welfare state, asserts that public sector unions are bad not because they undermine the sovereignty of the state, but because they sustain it, especially insofar as the state, at either the local or national levels, creates a set of public goods, like education, infrastructure, health care, and even public safety, that conservatives seek to either abolish or privatize.

Trade unions oppose the fragmentation of the public school system, they fight the privatization of municipal services, they sustain the Democratic Party, and they politicize and mobilize voters who would otherwise remain alienated and voiceless.

“Many of the new research people,” he wrote in 1946, probably indicating his own feelings, “are disaffected and morally unhappy: they will their minds to people they don’t like for purposes they don’t feel at one with . . . What some of them really want is to connect their skill and intelligence to a movement in which they can believe; they are ready to give a lot of energy to an organization that would harness these skills in the service of the left. And the left to most of them means labor.”

Mills responded, “By intellectual here we mean humanitarian socialist. What the hell else? So I’ll say so in some innocent, hard-boiled way.”

The phrase “political publics” is important to this typology and in Mills’s mind is quite distinct from the more passive, uninformed “public opinion.” The political publics are more self-conscious, more politically alert communities either of ideology or interest that bring to bear a particular sensibility to the issues of the day. They formulate the ideas and programs that operate on the consciousness of the passive, atomized mass.

Not if “the power and the intellect” are united. And that is why Mills found trade union leaders to be “the strategic elite in American society,” even as he also warned on the very last page, “Never has so much depended upon men who are so ill-prepared and so little inclined to assume the responsibility.”

Trade unions are hybrid institutions—half monopoly seller of labor, half nascent social movement—and their leadership is just as mixed, though not always in the same personage: “an army general and a parliamentary debater, a political boss and an entrepreneur, a rebel and a disciplinarian.”

Here they defended the wildcat strikes that periodically erupted, pushed for a labor party, and attacked those in the labor movement, such as the Communists, who subordinated working-class aspirations for a better life and a more democratic workplace to the foreign policy interests of one of the big powers.

Despite high levels of consumption, unionization, and political complacency, Swados would later write, “there is one thing that the worker doesn’t do like the middle-class: he works like a worker.”

Confronted with the financial and political strength of the most powerful American corporations, the UAW tempered its fight against job dissatisfaction, unemployment, and racial discrimination.

As early as 1945 and 1946 the Communists were overwhelmingly defeated in Western Zone trade union elections by those who remembered the disastrous role played by the Reds during the immediate pre–Nazi era (the Communist slogan then was “After Hitler Us!”).

Thus Lovestone helped erect the ideological Iron Curtain that walled off the unions from an entire generation of New Left activists and civil rights militants whose energy and talent was essential to the health of a truly “free” labor movement.

Some were now union officers and staffers: their resistance, equivocation, and hypocrisy fueled Herbert Hill’s outrage for the rest of his life. Nothing infuriated him more than the complicacy, condescension, presumption, and outright racism that he found in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU). In 1960 the ILGWU still traded on its socialist roots, its pioneering role in the New Deal, and in some circles its Jewish and Italian communitarianism. Yet anyone who bothered to look could also see that a stratum of aging Jewish liberals was presiding over a trade union that systematically excluded African Americans and Puerto Ricans from advancement in both the shop and the union hierarchy.

Hill wrote that she “denies the record of union racism in order to sanitize labor history,” along with many other labor historians who “find it necessary to minimize or deny racism in the labor movement because its existence conflicts with the useable past that they are constructing as labor history.”

Hill condemned what he called the “revived populist neo-Marxism that advanced the ideology of working class consciousness and solidarity against the social realties of race.” And as he put it in his critique of Gutman’s study of the late nineteenth-century United Mine Workers, “The attempt to dissolve race in class thus emerged in the ‘New Labor History’ as a modern version of the old socialist dream: that the class struggle, joined by united workers, would in time resolve the persistent and ideologically vexing issue of race by rendering it irrelevant.”

Organized labor is embattled, and not just at the bargaining table, but in a fundamentally ideological way that calls its very existence into question. In this context, academic intellectuals play a vital role as defenders, legitimizers, and even spokespeople for a movement that no longer quite knows how to explain itself to a larger public.

Highlights for Ecology Without Nature

To speak thus is to use the aesthetic as an anesthetic.

We would be unable to cope with modernity unless we had a few pockets of place in which to store our hope.

Rendering is technically what visual- and sonic-effects artists do to a film to generate a more or less consistent sense of atmosphere or world.


Texts also exploit negative rhythm to generate tone. The absence of sound or graphic marks can be as potent as their presence. Gaps between stanzas, and other kinds of broken lineation, create tone out of sheer blankness.

Moreover, there is an aesthetic politics of the rhizome, which promotes rhizome for rhizome’s sake.






It is providing a fantasy, an aesthetic playground in which the ideas in the book appear incarnated, a literary gravitational field generated by the sheer quantity of vivid description (elcphrasis).

This paradoxical act of identification with the fantasy object of ideology could be mirrored in critical analysis, by the relentless close reading of texts, not in order to achieve some tasteful distance toward them, but precisely in order to “mess around” with them, or as my students sometimes say in horror, “dissect.”

In sum, one of the principal complaints against establishing a vivid, solidly real nature “out there” or “over there” is that it just fails to be convincing. This lack of believability penetrates to the very core of ecomimesis, the most potent rhetorical device for establishing a sense of nature. The inherent instability of language, and of the human and nonhuman worlds, ensure that ecomimesis fails to deliver.

The problem comes when we start to think that there is something behind or beyond or above (in other words, outside!) the inside-outside distinction. Not that the distinction is real; it is entirely spurious. Thus, it is wrong to claim that there is something more real beyond inside and outside, whether that thing is a world of (sacred) nature (traditional ecological language) or machines (Deleuze and Guattari world). Yet it is equally wrong to say that there is nothing, to “believe in nothing,” as it were, and to say that he or she who has the best argument is the right one—pure nihilism. There is not even nothing beyond inside and outside. Getting used to that could take a lifetime, or more.

We can expect to find ambient qualities in any artwork whatsoever. We need not restrict ourselves to works that are specifically ambient, and especially not that subset of works that contain ecomimesis. In a world properly attuned to the environment, we would read poems with an eye to ecology, no matter what their content.

Nature cannot remain itself—it is the flickering shapes on the edges of our perception, the strangers who disturb us with their proximity, the machines whose monstrosity inspires revulsion.

They are identical because, under current economic conditions, not only is there no place, but there is also no space.

Before and after the work of capital, there persists a curious silence and absence marked by traces of misery and oppression.

Although some DJs have created superstar cults, the notion of the disco or house DJ is that of an anonymous worker in a “sound factory,” generating libidinal pulses in a space of dancing, producing ambience, in the same way as fairgrounds provide machines for enjoyment rather than work.

Marx described how capitalist alienation is fundamentally how human labor power and labor time get factored out of the process of value generation, even though they are intrinsic to it. Capitalism encrypts labor.

Rainforests are ransacked for biotechnology, and the insides of life-forms provide new products such as patented genomes in what ecofeminist Vandana Shiva describes as another wave of colonization.

In returning to Romanticism, ecocriticism highlights the yearning for a bygone life of feudal hierarchy. Primitivist environmentalisms crave a lost golden age of interconnect-edness with the environment. They look to pre-feudal, sometimes prehistoric, pasts to discover forms of primitive communism. In contrast, futurist environmentalisms are based on the notion that the golden age has not yet happened. They acknowledge that despite the medievalist glamour, most people never had much of a relationship with their land under a feudal hierarchy.

Ambient poetics is about making the imperceptible perceptible, while retaining the form of its imperceptibility—to make the invisible visible, the inaudible audible.

Ambient art wants to make the unknown known, like science. But it also wishes to retain the flavor of the unknown, a certain mystifying opacity—otherwise ambient art would in fact be science.

Organicism, that peculiarly English form of nature ideology, paints society as a nonsystemic heap of classes, beliefs, and practices, as ramshackle and spontaneous as a pile of compost. This is a rich, compelling, and finally authoritarian fantasy—there’s no arguing with it.

Tolkien narrates the victory of the suburbanite, the “little person,” embedded in a tamed yet natural-seeming environment. Nestled into the horizon as they are in their burrows, the wider world of global politics is blissfully unavailable to them. Tolkien’s work embodies a key nationalist fantasy, a sense of “world” as real, tangible yet indeterminate, evoking a metonymic chain of images—an anamorphic form.

The question of animals—sometimes I wonder whether it is the question—radically disrupts any idea of a single, independent, solid environment.

For Tolkien, dwarves, elves, hobbits, and talking eagles are welcome others, but swarthy “southern” or “eastern” men are not.

The only way to remain close to the strangers without killing them (turning them into yourself or into an inanimate object) is to maintain a sense of irony. If irony and movement are not part of environmentalism, strangers are in danger of disappearing, exclusion, ostracism, or worse.

State terror takes an interest in ecological catastrophe.

The struggle between individualism and holism offers an attenuated choice between absolute liberty and absolute authority—in other words, the dilemma called America. Americans are caught between the constitution and a militarized state, between placards and pepper spray.

Mud, mud, glorious mud.

Since it looks like capitalism is about to use an ecological rhetoric of scarcity to justify future developments, it is vital that we recognize that there are serious problems with imagining an ecological view based on limits, even at the level of abstraction we have been exploring. And we need to notice that scarcity and limitation are not the only ecological concepts on the block. What if the problem were in fact one of a badly distributed and reified surplus?

Green consumerism made it possible to be both pro-capitalist and green, repeating the Romantic struggle between rebelling and selling out.

To be a consumerist, you don’t have to consume anything, just contemplate the idea of consuming.

But this promise typifies the paradox of the Romantic avant-garde. If we could just get the aesthetic form right, we could crack reality, open it up, and change it.

Both quietism and activism are two sides of the same beautiful coin. The beautiful soul fuses the aesthetic and the moral.

Likewise, there are fascist and New Age versions of environmentalism.

Nature writing partly militates against ecology rather than for it. By setting up nature as an object “over there”—a pristine wilderness beyond all trace of human contact—it re-establishes the very separation it seeks to abolish.

Significantly, Althusser suggests, if only poetically, that ideology is a dimension of existence—we exist “within” it.167 A more engaged ecological criticism would acknowledge this environment—one we are caught in even as we judge it.

The dizzyingly additive quality of the images makes us forget where we came from at the start of the paragraph, and where we are going—how do we end up at otter scat? But just as “out of joint” is the metaphorical slash of the “as I write.” Since the “as” slides between analogy, temporality, and strict semantic continuity, and since this sliding must take place for the passage to seduce us to visualize a fantasy world, “As I write” breaches the consistency of the ecomimesis even as it broaches it.

Only a very privileged person would make such a big deal out of having eyes and ears, of being able to walk, read, write. There are hints that nature is best accessed by the able-bodied, or at least, those with sharp, undistracted organs of perception.

Ecomimesis aims to rupture the aesthetic distance, to break down the subject-object dualism, to convince us that we belong to this world. But the end result is to reinforce the aesthetic distance, the very dimension in which the subject-object dualism persists. Since de-distancing has been reified, distance returns even more strongly, in surround-sound, with panoramic intensity.

Writing outside the dominant Western traditions, Trungpa notices how materialism and spiritualism are joined at the hip:

Our choice is false if it has been reduced to one between hypocrisy and cynicism, between wholeheartedly getting into environmental rhetoric and cynically distancing ourselves from it. In both cases, we would be writing liturgies for the beautiful soul. Although it is “realistic” to be cynical rather than hypocritical, we do not wish to reinforce the current state of affairs. Our answer to the ruthless ransacking of nature, and of the idea of nature, must be yes, we admit to the reality of the situation. And no, we refuse to submit to it.

Ecocritique could establish collective forms of identity that included other species and their worlds, real and possible. It would subvert fixating images of “world” that inhibit humans from grasping their place in an already historical nature.

To think in terms of either crude action or pure ideas is to remain within the prison of the beautiful soul.

Dark ecology acknowledges that there is no way out of the paradoxes outlined in this book. Far from remaining natural, ecocriticism must admit that it is contingent and queer.

If it is to be properly critical, montage must juxtapose the contents with the frame. Why? Simply to juxtapose contents without bringing form and subject position into the mix would leave things as they are.



If ecology without nature has taught us anything, it is that there is a need to acknowledge irreducible otherness, whether in poetics, ethics, or politics.

All is not lost in a consumerist universe, if only because the junk that surrounds us is so inconsistent. Its inconsistency has the quality of a clue. This clue is the secret of suffering curled up inside the very dimension of the object.

Embodied in the sonic and graphic materiality of the text, the earth quakes, setting up a subject quake, a tremor of the “I.” What remains after our long delve into the fake otherness of ecomimesis is the fragility of an “I” that we can’t quite get rid of, but that at least can be made to vibrate, in such a way that does not strengthen its aggressive resolve (like a hammer or a boot), but that dissolves its form, however momentarily.

Heidegger has most powerfully described place as open and beyond concept. But Heidegger, infamously, solidifies this very openness, turning history into destiny and leaving the way open for an extreme right-wing politics, which can easily assimilate ecological thinking to its ideological ends, precisely because ecological thinking is highly aestheticized. The Nazis passed original laws to protect animals and (German) forests as ends in themselves.

Romantic environmentalism is a flavor of modern consumerist ideology. It is thoroughly urban, even when it is born in the countryside.

Moving from one station to the next becomes a metaphor for moving from one word to another in a sentence. Landmarks become textual.

To see a place in its strangeness is not just to see how it is permeated with otherness. That could collapse into racism: otherness immigrates and I’m ready with my gun. Within a horizon, you can indeed be aware of “another” place over yonder. Appreciating strangeness is seeing the very strangeness of similarity and familiarity. To reintroduce the uncanny into the poetics of the home (oikos, ecology, ecomimesis) is a political act.

The ecological thought, the thinking of interconnectedness, has a dark side embodied not in a hippie aesthetic of life over death, or a sadistic-sentimental Bambification of sentient beings, but in a “goth” assertion of the contingent and necessarily queer idea that we want to stay with a dying world: dark ecology.


We start by thinking that we can “save” something called “the world” “over there,” but end up realizing that we ourselves are implicated. This is the solution to beautiful soul syndrome: reframing our field of activity as one for which we ourselves are formally responsible, even guilty.

We should be finding ways to stick around with the sticky mess that we’re in and that we are, making thinking dirtier, identifying with ugliness, practicing “hauntology” (Derrida’s phrase) rather than ontology.

I often think that the trouble with posthumanism is that we have not yet achieved humanity, and that humanity and posthumanity have no time for what Derrida calls the animal that therefore I am.

In this respect, dark ecology diverges from those Romanticisms that follow a Hegelian dialectic, the story of the reconciliation of the self to the other, who turns out to be the self in disguise.159 It gets over the dilemma of the beautiful soul, not by turning the other into the self, but perversely, by leaving things the way they are.

And being-here, being literally on this earth (Da-sein), would entail a need for forgiveness, an equally radical assumption that whatever is there is our responsibility, and ultimately, “our fault.”

Dark ecology tells us that we can’t escape our minds. Far from giving us a liturgy for how to get out of our guilty minds, how to stick our heads in nature and lose them, Clare helps us to stay right here, in the poisoned mud. Which is just where we need to be, right now.

The only firm ethical option in the current catastrophe, as I observed before, is admitting to the ecologically catastrophic in all its meaningless contingency, accepting responsibility groundlessly, whether or not “we ourselves” can be proved to be responsible.

Instead of trying to pull the world out of the mud, we could jump down into the mud. To emerge from the poisoned chrysalis of the beautiful soul, we admit that we have a choice. We choose and accept our own death, and the fact of mortality among species and ecosystems. This is the ultimate rationality: holding our mind open for the absolutely unknown that is to come. Evolution will not be televised. One cannot have a video of one’s own extinction. A warning to deep ecology: if we aestheticize this acceptance, we arrive at fascism, the cult of death. Instead, ecological criticism must politicize the aesthetic. We choose this poisoned ground. We will be equal to this senseless actuality. Ecology may be without nature. But it is not without us.