Blackspot

Michel Serres

A unified theory of mental pollution.

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Michel Serres, an eccentric French philosopher, has written the first truly philosophical work of the mental environmentalist movement, a radical re-conception of pollution that hones the Adbusters critique. The big idea of his book, Malfeasance: Appropriation Through Pollution?, is that animals, humans included, use pollution to mark, claim, and appropriate territory through defiling it and that over time this appropriative act has evolved away from primitive pollution, urine and feces, to "hard pollution", industrial chemicals, and "soft pollution", the many forms of advertising.

"Let us define two things and clearly distinguish them from one another," Michel Serres writes, "first the hard [pollutants], and second the soft. By the first I mean on the one hand solid residues, liquid gases, emitted throughout the atmosphere by big industrial companies or gigantic garbage dumps, the shameful signature of big cities. By the second, tsunamis of writings, signs, images, and logos flooding rural, civic, public and natural spaces as well as landscapes with their advertising. Even though different in terms of energy, garbage and marks nevertheless result from the same soiling gesture, from the same intention to appropriate, and are of animal origin."

The importance of Michel Serres' contribution to mental environmentalism is that he is the first to philosophically ground mental environmentalism upon a unified theory of pollution that explains how advertisements are an extension of toxic sludge. Until now, the mental environmentalist argument has been that just as polluted rivers are a necessary byproduct of creating paper so too are polluted mindscapes a byproduct of creating consumers. While this argument is still true, and Serres makes a similar point in his book, Serres has managed to do something even more profound: he has shown why one cannot be an environmentalist without also being a mental environmentalist. In closing the gap between physical and mental toxins, Serres has closed the gap between physical and mental ecology.

"The captain who unloads waste in the high seas has never seen, or rather has never let, the countless smiles of the gods emerge; that would be too demanding, or even creative. Shitting on the world, has he ever seen its beauty before? Did he ever see his own beauty? And so, he who dirties space with billboards full of sentences and images hides the view of the surrounding landscape, kills perception, and skewers it by this theft. First the landscape then the world."

Beyond simply being a philosophical treatise, Malfeasance is a passionate rallying cry. Suddenly aware that the earth is being claimed by the soft pollution of corporations, Serres does not hide his anger. And that is the final way in which his book is a mental environmentalist work, it does not argue for acquiescence but yells for dramatic social revolution.

"It makes me suffer so much that I need to say it over and over again and proclaim it everywhere; how can we not cry with horror and disgust confronted with the wrecking of our formerly pleasant rural access roads into the cities of France? Companies fill the space now with their hideous brands, waging the same frenzied battle as the jungle species in order to appropriate the public space and attention with images and words, like animals with their screams and piss. Excluded from those outskirts, I no longer live there; they are haunted by the powerful who shit on them and occupy them with their ugliness. Old Europe, what ignorant ruling class is killing you?"

Micah White

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20 comments on the article “Michel Serres”

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secede or bust

I think this man has a great theory here. Within Socio- Biology this theory of pollution by dominating others ( as in marking your territory by pissing ) is a magnificent analogy. Next time you see the wealthy "marking their territory" give them a good kick in the *&^!

secede or bust

I think this man has a great theory here. Within Socio- Biology this theory of pollution by dominating others ( as in marking your territory by pissing ) is a magnificent analogy. Next time you see the wealthy "marking their territory" give them a good kick in the *&^!

Anon

at least shit and piss biodegrade. it's part of the natural cycle. There's something more sinister here. artificial.

Anon

at least shit and piss biodegrade. it's part of the natural cycle. There's something more sinister here. artificial.

one woman

We are bio-mechanically engineered to consume any and all abundant resources we find (i.e. eat all the Mammoth can, who knows when we will feast again?). With this knowledge of human behavior in mind we must not simply admit that week minds are easily influenced, but rather ANY attempt to guide or influence people toward consumption is an act against our HEALTH, WELL BEING and the well being of our HOST(EARTH)! Any action taken to defy the advertising agenda is there for an act of not rebellion, but one of radical FREEDOM!

Will you be free?

one woman

We are bio-mechanically engineered to consume any and all abundant resources we find (i.e. eat all the Mammoth can, who knows when we will feast again?). With this knowledge of human behavior in mind we must not simply admit that week minds are easily influenced, but rather ANY attempt to guide or influence people toward consumption is an act against our HEALTH, WELL BEING and the well being of our HOST(EARTH)! Any action taken to defy the advertising agenda is there for an act of not rebellion, but one of radical FREEDOM!

Will you be free?

secede or bust

You ask "Will you be free?"
A few of us here do our best to stay away from the conditioning of advertising and conspicuous consumption. If you watch TV, you need a mental filter that blocks out all poisonous baiting. If you walk down the street or drive a car you have to ignore or mentally shut down the constant bait to hook you. The rich will continue to chum the waters with bait, we have to have alternative means to stay healthy and sheltered and fed. I hope all of us discuss these options rather than get stuck sniffing the "markings" and letting the pheromones seep into our consciousness, for then we become slaves of our lower instincts....just as they want us to.

secede or bust

You ask "Will you be free?"
A few of us here do our best to stay away from the conditioning of advertising and conspicuous consumption. If you watch TV, you need a mental filter that blocks out all poisonous baiting. If you walk down the street or drive a car you have to ignore or mentally shut down the constant bait to hook you. The rich will continue to chum the waters with bait, we have to have alternative means to stay healthy and sheltered and fed. I hope all of us discuss these options rather than get stuck sniffing the "markings" and letting the pheromones seep into our consciousness, for then we become slaves of our lower instincts....just as they want us to.

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