The implicit question is – if everyone hates the current system, who perpetuates it? And Ginsberg answers: “Moloch”. It’s powerful not because it’s correct – nobody literally thinks an ancient Carthaginian demon causes everything – but because thinking of the system as an agent throws into relief the degree to which the system isn’t an agent.
– The utopia where instead of the government paying lots of corporate welfare, the government doesn’t pay lots of corporate welfare. – The utopia where every country’s military is 50% smaller than it is today, and the savings go into infrastructure spending.
...I don’t think there are too many people who oppose any of these utopias. If they’re not happening, it’s not because people don’t support them. It certainly isn’t because nobody’s thought of them, since I just thought of them right now and I don’t expect my “discovery” to be hailed as particularly novel or change the world.
A lot of the commentators say Moloch represents capitalism. This is definitely a piece of it, even a big piece. But it doesn’t quite fit. Capitalism, whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen? Capitalism in whom I am a consciousness without a body? Capitalism, therefore granite cocks?
Moloch whose name is the Mind! Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
I know that “capitalists sometimes do bad things” isn’t exactly an original talking point. But I do want to stress how it’s not equivalent to “capitalists are greedy”. I mean, sometimes they are greedy. But other times they’re just in a sufficiently intense competition where anyone who doesn’t do it will be outcompeted and replaced by people who do. Business practices are set by Moloch, no one else has any choice in the matter (from my very little knowledge of Marx, he understands this very very well and people who summarize him as “capitalists are greedy” are doing him a disservice).
The Lovecraftian Cosmic Perspective is the horrifying realization that the interests of a natural, emergent Gnon overall do not coincide with those of man, and that man is vastly outgunned. The correct response to this knowledge is a sanity-cracking fear, followed by a frantic and blasphemous search for a way to defy or capture Gnon. A useful model of Gnon thus becomes a prime research objective.
Gnon, the reversed acronym of Nature or Nature’s God, is the quasi-anthropomorphic reification of the natural law and teleology of our universe, whether supernatural or emergent. Gnon tends (“tends” being the important operative word in teleology) overall to favor forms most able to optimize for their own continued existence and spread, and of course to favor the universal tendency to entropy. Or rather, these things tend to happen for the usual reasons, and we name that tendency “Gnon”. The study of Gnon is to the highest level of abstraction (teleology) as the study of physics is to the lowest level of abstraction (mechanistic physical law).
But the current rulers of the universe – call them what you want, Moloch, Gnon, whatever – want us dead, and with us everything we value. Art, science, love, philosophy, consciousness itself, the entire bundle. And since I’m not down with that plan, I think defeating them and taking their place is a pretty high priority.
In the very near future, we are going to lift something to Heaven. It might be Moloch. But it might be something on our side. If it’s on our side, it can kill Moloch dead.
Only another god can kill Moloch. We have one on our side, but he needs our help. We should give it to him.
The opposite of a trap is a garden. The only way to avoid having all human values gradually ground down by optimization-competition is to install a Gardener over the entire universe who optimizes for human values.
Ginsberg’s poem famously begins “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”. I am luckier than Ginsberg. I got to see the best minds of my generation identify a problem and get to work.
America, I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel