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The Gulf Livestock 1 livestock carrier sank two years ago today in the East China Sea. On their way to be murdered, 5,867 cows instead drowned approximately 100 miles off the coast of Amami Oshima. The Japanese Coast Guard recovered three crew members from among the floating cattle corpses. The remaining forty are presumed dead, following the Coast Guard's suspension of its search for survivors on 2020-09-09.

I started writing an article on the Gulf Livestock 1 immediately after hearing it had sunk. While writing that article, I found my thoughts circling around a particular phrase: "these animals should never have been at sea." Two years later, I am still thinking about that phrase.

In 2021, Israeli activists filmed a docking and unloading of the carrier's successor, the Gulf Livestock 2, in Haifa, Israel. The images were described to European Parliament as showing "severely injured calves [...] covered in blood and in a clear state of distress."

As I write this, the Gulf Livestock 2 is sailing off the coast of Almeria, Spain. It has a gross tonnage of 12,072 tons, and holds around 15,000 cattle at any particular time.

Posted Fri 02 Sep 2022 10:01:26 AM EDT Tags:

4000 beagles rescued from the Envigo breeding factory in Cumberland, Virginia are up for adoption. These beagles survived Envigo's numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. If you live in the Virginia, Maryland, or Washington D.C. areas and are in a position to adopt a beagle, please contact Homeward Trails or the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Had their life at Envigo continued, the dogs could have reasonably expected dental disease, parasitic infections, food covered in mold, severe skin problems, and ambient temperatures consistently upwards of 90°F (32°C). All of these things were observed in the USDA's July 2021 inspection. They then could have gone on to be one of the 196 dogs euthanized via intracardiac injection performed without an anesthetic, as USDA investigators observed in their November 2021 inspection.

Envigo continues to "produce" their "models" in eleven other factories around the United States.

Posted Wed 20 Jul 2022 06:12:12 PM EDT Tags:

Nietzsche lives in an ivory tower and is an aristocrat. Into Stirner's land all are welcome.

Lucky and charitable readers of Max Stirner will remember that first moment in which they grasped (or felt as though they had grasped) Stirner's process of inquiry, that feeling of complete exhilaration that comes from one's first sustained encounter with Der Einzige und sein Eigentum.

This despite the fact that it's a small miracle for a reader to there in the first place. There are few authors who have been so willfully misunderstood by their enemies and misinterpreted by their most vocal, would-be supporters. The former despise him because of his ferocious assault on their religious, philosophical, political, or moral "fixed ideas;" the latter would have Stirner be a kind of cantankerous old uncle who held to their political platform while being none the wiser, no matter that platform's vintage.

Suffice to say, the book has been interpreted enough. Lucky for us, it has not yet been interpreted to death. What we seek to do here is put up a few signposts, guiding the reader through what by necessity will be a prolonged and at times infuriating, but in all things individual journey through Stirner's masterpiece of negative self-creation. As Uncle Max might have wanted, our process will be an apophatic one. We don't dare to pave the road straight to Candyland, and thus won't spend much time saying what Stirner is, only what he isn't. Hopefully and with any luck, it will prevent a few of his readers from getting lost in the Gumdrop Forest.

The Unique One

Stirner's English readers are especially unlucky. After a certain point the history of Der Einzige und sein Eigentum's misinterpretation becomes a history of the English (mis)translation's influence, starting with Benjamin Tucker's "admittedly erroneous1" rendering of the title as The Ego and His Own. This appears to have almost immediately reduced Stirner's position to that of vulgar "egoism" and self-interest, something we can already see taking form in Stirner's engagement with Feuerbach and others in "Stirner's Critics" and "The Philosophical Reactionaries." The typical error here is to treat the term Einzige as having some transcendent, conceptual reality -- in other words, as being a word with a capital letter -- that is only a step removed from the Hegelian Absolute which Stirner has taken such great pains to shake off. Just how ludicrous it would be for Stirner to cap his demolition of every concept exterior to the individual with an idol of his own is never mentioned. Not even Stirner himself was capable of that much arrogance.

The truth of the matter is that Einzige is nothing but a German word. That word is doubly convenient for Stirner, providing the needed connotation of uniqueness ("the unique one"), and being at the same time ripe for wordplay. However, it is just a word. It is a placeholder, one that Stirner uses to refer to the specific, historic, utterly unique lived experience of the individual that exists prior to language or conceptualization. This, and nothing else. Writing in the third person in "Stirner's Critics," he himself states:

Stirner names the unique and says at the same time that "Names don't name it." He utters a name when he names the unique, and adds that the unique is only a name. So he thinks something other than what he says, just as, for example, when someone calls you Ludwig, he isn't thinking of a generic Ludwig, but of you, for whom he has no word.

What Stirner says is a word, a thought, a concept; what he means is neither a word, nor a thought, nor a concept. What he says is not the meaning, and what he means cannot be said2.

The mysticism implied by such a pernicious misreading has Stirner treating Ego conceptually, saying in short something resembling the Vedic formula thou art that: that you may think you're you, but can't you see that you're Ego? The truth is instead as common sense would have it: that you are you, and nobody else.

..And Its Property

It should always be kept in mind that Stirner's process of self-creation3 is from start to finish an aesthetic one, something undertaken for his own amusement and self-expression.

Der Einzige und sein Eigentum does not make an argument in the conventional sense, nor is Stirner making any claim to objective truth. The "objective" stance Stirner would have to take to make such an argument would be self-alienating from the beginning, as it would require him to accept the idea that there could be a concept or conceptual framework transcendental to his own experience. As Stirner refuses to separate himself from himself or take even the slightest step away from the "creative nothing" that fashions its own understanding of itself and its surroundings ("property"), there is nothing to prove, nothing more to gain or lose, and nowhere to go but down whatever path his wholly subjective, aesthetic inclinations lead him. In short, there's nothing for Stirner to do but express himself. As he writes:

If God, if humanity, as you affirm, have enough content in themselves to be all in all to themselves, then I feel that I would lack it even less, and that I would have no complaint to make about my "emptiness." I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but am the creative nothing, the nothing out of which I myself create everything as creator4.

Thus it is a mistake to read Stirner as putting forth anything resembling a program (vulgar "egoism"), or to read his work as being anything other than a phenomenological self-creation unfolding before our eyes, one undertaken only and specifically for the enjoyment of a singular, historically situated individual who once lived and is now dead: the one known alternately as Johann Kaspar Schmidt and Max Stirner. Indeed, the reader will see that Stirner's ambiguous name suits him perfectly and take comfort in this fact: that at one moment Stirner can be one and alternately the other; that his identity lies not in any positive affirmation (which would be a fixed idea), but rather in the enjoyment that comes from his own self-creation and self-appropriation.

Saint Max

One might wonder what value there is in a close reading of their drunk old uncle's process of self-creation and self-discovery, or his relentless mocking of all history and philosophy, especially when his real positions can't easily be "pinned down" for vivisection like those of his contemporaries.

We answer that while The Unique and Its Property is a record of Stirner's self-creation and self-enjoyment, it is also (and perhaps even primarily) an invitation to do the same thing for ourselves. In this respect, it is one of the only books deserving of the name "self-help," and the experience of reading it -- following its signposts -- is true medicine for the "sick individual," the one whose individuality is in need of nurturing. This applies twice as much to the black sheep and outcasts of society. It applies three times as much to those outcasts whom society has chosen to walk all over because of some early attempt to resist those who told them what they should be and who told them what they already were.

The "nothing" of Stirner speaks to this person. They have spent their whole lives being told they are nothing, and this Stirner affirms. Yet this very same nothing, this point of fracture with the ruling ideology, this negative element is the first blossoming of the creative nothing by which they will shake themselves loose from the ghosts that haunt them and embark on a path of their own design. Stirner's school is the school of hard knocks. One's first slog through The Unique and Its Property is rarely enjoyable and still rarely finished5, but it is good for one thing: the reminder that one is one's own, that their singular and unique lived experience will never again be repeated, and that no concept or system of concepts6 can ever permanently entrap them.

Before, we spoke of that first moment in reading Stirner where frustration gives way to complete exhilaration. We end with the passage that brought us our own:

Now, as this rose is a true rose from the start, this nightingale always a nightingale, so I am not a true human being only when I fulfill my calling, live up to my purpose, but I am a true human being from birth. My first babbling is the vital sign of a "true human being," my life struggles are the outpourings of its force, my last breath is the last exhalation of the force of the "human being."

The true human being doesn't lie in the future, an object of longing, but rather it lies in the present, existing and actual. However and whoever I may be, joyful and sorrowful, a child or an old man, in confidence or doubt, asleep or awake, I am it, I am the true human being7.

Footnotes


  1. Benjamin R. Tucker, Preface to The Ego and His Own (1907)
  2. Max Stirner, "Stirner's Critics," tr. Wolfi Landstreicher.
  3. I owe the term "self-creation" to Jason McQuinn's "Clarifying the Unique and Its Self-Creation," an article to which this one is indebted as a whole.
  4. Max Stirner, "I Have Based My Affair on Nothing," The Unique and Its Property, tr. Wolfi Landstreicher.
  5. I once gave a friend a copy of Stirner's book together with an inscription from Haino Keiji that I like very much: "Nothing changes, no one can change anything; I am ever-changing, only you can change yourself." Over a year later it remains on their shelf, unopened and gathering dust.
  6. We should remark that Marxism is one of these, and yet it's to Marx and Engels that we owe Stirner's nickname "Sankt Max." It was conferred upon him in The German Ideology, a tome two or three times more unreadable than anything Stirner ever wrote.
  7. Max Stirner, "My Self-Enjoyment," The Unique and Its Property, tr. Wolfi Landstreicher.
Posted Sat 16 Jul 2022 06:41:08 PM EDT Tags: