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The First Problem of Being Perceptible Is Being Manipulated (Becoming Imperceptible 2)

2 minutes read

This is the second post in a series, on the concept of "becoming imperceptible" in Deleuze and Guattari. The first one is here.

For obvious reasons, we have strong inclinations to be understood by others. There is a problem here because, to the degree we wish to be perceptible to others, we are conditioning our own expressions on contingent social and political variables. In an ideal community, this might not be a problem. If technological or other contextual variables veer off in a way that biases and malforms popular perceptions, then thinking and speaking to be perceptible can easily lock one into a life of inescapable confusion, suffering, and reproduction of precisely what one despises. This is the problem of perceptibility, in a nutshell.

Note that perception refers to sense data. Perceptibility therefore has pre-conscious connotations. You might think of perception as kind of like "understanding,"but the latter is misleading because it connotes conscious intellection. It's worth clarifying this point because the problem here is not the prospect of being correctly understood intellectually. We will seek to be understood, but only by those who can understand. Seeking to be perceptible means catering to the initial and cheapest pieces of others' psychological and behavioral equipment.

To be perceptible means that institutions, and their human trustees, know how to manipulate you. Being perceptible means you are easily pigeonholed, and what's worse is that often you are correctly pigeonholed. If you optimize for how you are perceived, and especially if you build a life on how you are perceived (i.e., anyone who's income is based on status in an institutional hierarchy), then your thoughts, words, and actions are easily controlled by anyone above you in the institutional hierarchy. For by definition their edicts have greater influence on the perceptions of everyone attuned to the hierarchy than anything you might say or do, thus pleasing one's status-superiors is a necessity for those who wish to be perceived well. (This matter is greatly complicated in contexts of institutional breakdown and fragmentation, as we are currently observing, so we will need to treat the matter in greater detail later; but for now, most of us are still maneuvering lives overwhelmingly characterized by the inertia of mass institutions, so even if institutions break down rapidly over the course of the next few generations, the general lessons here will suffice for most people for quite some time.)


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