Disembodied, dat embodied… transhumanism, trans politics & transneptunian objects

Here’s a thought experiment. Sure, it’s been explored to death in sci-fi and pop science essays, and yet it gets ever more topical. Imagine your home planet is becoming uninhabitable. What do you, as the supposedly dominant species, do?

Check the global orgy of excess? Too inconvenient. More popular options include geoengineering (good luck reaching agreement as we fret over threats of WWIII), while futurists predict a new green revolution brought to you by quantum computing – a fantasy that AI will save humanity (if maybe not anytime soon). So buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride to the red planet, if you can trust loony tech tycoon and Twitter tragic Elon Musk. Yet the project to colonise Mars is going nowhere fast. Which brings us to the kingdom of transhumanism.

It just takes faith. And, er, conversion of the heathen masses whose territoriality keeps them hooked on hard cash, backyard barbies, babies, furred pets etc. Transhumanists don’t register on their radar. Yet righteous leftists can be swayed to betray their own flesh and blood if an ideology gestures towards equality. So for them, the gateway drug is diversity. Even if it’s a placebo. Because radical change no longer works from the grass roots up. Humans, at least in cities and towns, where most are found (or, more often, lost), are progressively losing ground. Try telling high-rise-dwelling frequent flyers with SUVs you can roll just by taking a curve at speed that ‘diversity’ is a word co-opted to serve a top-down agenda. Who cares? Compared to ‘biodiversity’ (less of a buzzword), which refers to countless yet dwindling wild life forms, diversity in, say, publishing or advertising more resembles the landscaping around a McMansion: borders boasting a standardised range of evenly spaced low-maintenance plants.

Take the ubiquitous ‘body positivity’ ad campaigns. Diversity of size, right? At a glance, ‘BoPo’ seems to imply the incarnate in all its wondrous variety. But google ‘body positivity’ and click on ‘Images’: obese women far outnumber thin ones (or those with warped spines like mine). BoPo emerged from the fat acceptance movement, whose activists burned pix of sixties supermodel Twiggy – as if they couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Both hating and flaunting excess weight play into misogynist logic. If you, too, objectify your body – in pride, shame, or just intense self-consciousness – you’re outside it. The body as object is cut off from the wild web of life/death, the wax and wane of seasonal food, the cyclic hosting of microbes. A flow of give and take, growth and decay, progress and breakdown, sustains – but where does a trend towards abodes and bods displacing ever more 3D space end?

Positive bodies impose themselves upon the environment as extensions of positive minds. And the idea of positive thinking assumes its opposite. Semantics aside, though, BoPo’s true opposite isn’t negativity, but negation of the body as real, courtesy of the virtual. Because beyond body positivity, including body building and physical fitness on steroids (literally), lies not just augmentation (pacemakers, penile implants, prosthetics etc.), but the fun of brain-computer interfaces. While mind uploading, with its goal of spending eternity in a simulated world, is still a sci-fi pipe dream, research is driving rabid hype.

Our civilisation demands increasing complication of things that, in essence, used to be way simpler. But capitalism thrives by monetising everything, so if it can’t identify enough stuff to profit off, it just invents some. Hence, innately simple things get ever more involved, while infinitely complex things – Earth’s ecology, the invisible energies animating our bodies – get reduced to stats or mechanistic analogies. How many believed mRNA vaccines would arm our immune systems to win the war on Covid, as if Pfizer were wiser than nature?

‘Just trust the science’… Where to begin to deconstruct that mantra? Well, first came conflicts of interest and then propaganda… Not that bona fide science is evil; just incomplete. For instance, two short decades ago, Pluto was a planet, science had long foreseen a resources crisis, the US had just invaded Iraq to secure oil supplies, and astronomers searching for a tenth planet discovered that Pluto has kin. Our solar system is more diverse than we knew. But too many new ‘planets’ sounds like anarchy. So, astronomy being political, Pluto got redefined, and all these newer ‘minor planets’ that suddenly came out of nowhere when interested parties started paying attention have been assigned diverse PC identities: cis-Neptunian objects, transneptunian objects, plutinos etc.

As above, so below, that hackneyed old axiom, actually works in practice. Cis this, trans that. Don’t trust the science, just note the language. So, enter disorientation, attended by dysphoria, the opposite of what capitalism is selling. Lately, the word tends to follow gender (a category, like planet, of expanding diversity) as a rationale for ‘gender-affirming’ hormone treatment + surgery. Maleness and femaleness have been rendered disposable. Even if you think you don’t have skin in the game, where on Earth can this be going? In what sort of world is a physically sound adolescent’s peer-steered gender distress deemed more valid than genetic reality?

Deconstruction of the body serves a consumerist world. If X (or XX or XY) is faulty, parts can be altered or replaced. In a spiritual wasteland where consciousness rates as an epiphenomenon of the brain, you are your body – so if it feels wrong, it just needs a reno. If tweaking selfies beyond recognition sparks envy in virtual friends, how much cooler to edit your flesh? And if horizontal pressures stunt vertical perspective, why not go sideways? In a world that precludes meaningful rites of passage at puberty (yet enforces mass infantilisation via handheld digital nannies), what’s the big deal about popping puberty blockers? Imagine feeling suicidally trapped in your body because you’re taught to medicate (or suppress distress), not to meditate (or cultivate equanimity), by a culture where people (mainly men) compulsively fetishise body parts (mainly of women) they view two-dimensionally… Where does anyone get off objecting to folk forsaking their birth-assigned genitals?

The robust public debate that never happened re the aptness of forcing Covid jabs on folk with intact immune systems now seems similarly absent re the wisdom of assisting troubled trans teens to medically transition, the positive spin of terms like ‘gender affirmation’ denying downsides and drowning out all reasonable doubt. Just as those loath to roll up their sleeves with a smile got branded anti-vaxxers, folk who ask why the trans youth trend went viral around when smartphones became the main means for all to get online get called transphobes. But regulating diversity – or the use of words referring to it – doesn’t enhance diversity; it just promotes regulation. Regularity. Order. Conformity. A new normal.

So who can transitioners listen to on the nay side of the debate? Does high-profile anti-trans activist Posie Parker honestly think her scene-stealing, sieg-heiling neo-Nazi fan base gives a toss about Black, Jewish or Muslim women? What appears to escape poster girls for far-right women’s rights like her is the herdlike submission of ever more human bodies to techno-medically managed dependency, as boundaries between Big Tech and ‘healthcare’ break down along with – or ahead of – hard and fast gender markers. The body itself, with all its messy inconvenience, represents the last bastion of resistance to our total absorption into what some have summed up as the Machine: the antithesis of the sacred; of nature. Just sayin’…

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5 Responses to Disembodied, dat embodied… transhumanism, trans politics & transneptunian objects

  1. Think I’m just happy to stay in my cave/cocoon for as long as I can manage it. ‘Out there’ is rapidly getting to complicated for me.

    • Thanks for reading, Annette. I hope you’re very well, & trust your cave is preferable to Plato’s. 🙂 ________________________________

      • Well, no chains. However a quick read of Plato’s allegory (without having studied it and had it dissected by ‘specialists’)..hmmm…and Philosophy, which takes place in our mind-brain, deals with the real word under the sun?…not so sure about that…and the shadows on the wall is an interesting idea in relation to the information coming to us from our computer screens…so, what is real…and does it matter if we are content and surviving? Yes, I’m fine. All good.

      • Hey, Annette, all good & no chains sounds great to me, happy to hear it! What is real? Well, w/ the already near-limitless capacity of state-of-the-art AI to devise & disseminate lies – ‘disinformation’ – via text, pix or video, what’s real is mostly not on the net, its ‘content’ has nothing to do w/ contentment. Real is more like the immediacy of fresh air, sun, ocean, trees… & birdsong, the rhythms of wind, waves & crickets, if folk took those white things out of their ears…

      • with you 100%. Reminding me to hit the outdoors today.

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