Ketman

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I know it when I see it. I do not normally know when I am doing it. Not until after the fact. Ketman is a concept borrowed from Islamic culture and applied to the culture of the Soviet satellite nations by Polish poet and author, Czesław Miłosz. With his The Pwned Mind, an inspirational fork of his The Captive Mind, krozruch and his collaborators will attempt to examine the styles of ketman practiced in neoliberal states today.

If the above is to have any meaning, it must necessarily be the case that many people reading this will viscerally reject the definition, even the very existence of the concept. In so doing, they may find themselves having any number of automatic thoughts, perhaps those that discredit the observations of somebody who is by their own "admission" ADHD, aspergic, prone to unipolar depression at the very least. They might find themselves experiencing thoughts relating to the possibility to be anything, be anybody in this world, or to the tendency of leftists (and "snowflakes", "remoaners", "appeasers" of whatever is the latest overwhelming threat to "our" way of life, of whoever is the latest "other" to be wiped off the face of the earth etc.) to constantly find the most cynical interpretation they can.

What ketman may mean for us if we break through this, is that the ways we are used to seeing the world are as if from a coin-operated telescope on Blackpool pier, one of those that will rock back and forwards maybe thirty five degrees, up and down twenty five. One of those with scratchy glass that focuses somewhere in the middle distance when all you can find to look at is a seagull shitting on the sea somewhere by a buoy out a fraction further. Meanwhile the old attractions scream out behind you and the mothers and fathers scream at the children whose ice creams have fallen through the thick boards beneath their feet. What it may mean for us is that the communicative spaces many people occupy are similarly restricted, that the registers we speak in never stray as far from the register of the job interview or the post game chat with a squash partner you know from work, that we speak too often in the words of others and too often say what we don't really mean, or that we don't much make the effort to mean much at all when so much meaning surrounds us.

When krozruch was a young man, he began to write a somewhat Kafkaesque story about a man stuck in a rut. The rut was a record groove and the protagonist was down inside it so that it reached up above him, thinner and thicker at parts. The only way he could run was forwards - the only way out, if there was a way out, was through[1] - but when he did so, the noise was so loud, and it was a loudness, too loud a solitude, in his own mind, so that he could only pull up and gather his strength for another assault. Living Ketman, this is how it is. We are that man, running forwards, only we are producing the sound. We are the sound. The world is constructed as an objective correlative of normalcy, of everything we are supposed to feel and think, and if we act like the good rationally self-maximising individuals the Rand Corporation and Devos and Macron and Tony Blair and the Koch brothers and Mark Zuckerberg or whatsisname with the socks over in Canada think we should, then we can be permitted to self maximise, forced to be freer, all the while listening to the soundtrack we should be listening to if we are to gather up in our own inventory the tools that are to unlock the secret doors and, like Lara Croft, explore the world in the manner set up for us. But if we can't dance to that tune...

The prevalence of Ketman in any given society will mean that it must inevitably develop in the wrong direction sooner or later unless there is as rapid or wholesale discontinuity, and then, once it achieves escape velocity from the forces holding it back, it will only keep on going until it hits something hard or soft. Whether or not an individual practices ketman in one or another way in their life, and whether they do it too little or too much, will mean a lot, but

The opposite of ketman, for Václav Havel was "living in truth". This has much to recommend it as a slogan, and not too little for it to be serviceable as a shorthand, but, the idea of truth is more slippery than we might at first believe, and so we might have to be prepared for the fact, that it is not even particularly simple to find a source for the quote often attributed to Havel: "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it." People who try to do the above, if they are not the kind of people (cough, cough) who believe their own myth who sometimes are attracted to the myth of Havel and, before him, Masaryk, who may carry on role-playing their own truth for many a year in the increasingly congenial company of the beautiful people doing the same, may soon find themselves discouraged by the difficulties of finding the truth when you find yourself for the first time adjusting for the increasingly wayward estimates of magnetic north on the maps you have to hand for the territory you find yourself in when you first start to really explore off the main thoroughfares.

There is no algorithm for finding truth, just as, a logical step, there is no algorithm for finding falsehood. You have to hear a range of voices. You have to hear a range of opinions. you need to be one of those voices, which means you have to be your own voice. If and when you do, you might have to say goodbye to the purity of the numbers on your Twitter account which you hoped might one day deliver you your dream job, the HR-ready face you present to the world - the whole world - on Facebook as you're not always going to be saying things everybody wants to here. (If you are, you are not saying anything). What are the social contexts you choose to spend you time in, the people you strive to be while you are in them? Which of them express you most directly? Which of them express you the least? Is it worth it? These are the questions you will likely start to ask of yourself if you begin to consider the questions still now posed by the above.

Ketman is one of the tools people may choose to use for a moral audit of themselves and their society. Many such can be borrowed from other cultures than our own. By using them, one can find the strengths and weaknesses of the tools we tend to have to hand, or even, in some cases, find their absence.

Psychopharmacological ketman

Cognitive behavioural ketman

Mindfulness-as-productivity-tool ketman

Yoga-as-bikini body ketman

American pragmatism ketman

Supermum ketman

Outward Monogamy ketman

Patriotic ketman

Populist ketman

Tinfoil hat ketman

Wemmickian ketman

Power stance ketman

Mimetic ketman

Mythic ketman

Networking ketman

Personal brand ketman

Footnotes and references

  1. Ostensibly a quote from Churchill which runs "the only way out is through", though if ever you look into those things they tend to fall apart as quickly as the idea of Shakespeare's authorship of any given play.