Horcrux making: cleaving one's soul into two with an act of ultimate evil in the hopes of safe-keeping one's life for eternity ("diversifying"/"not putting all your eggs in one basket" for Voldemort)

A split life

I think Lifton’s work on the Nazi doctors is important.149 This book is not about horrors. It’s about the extraordinary ability of these particular Nazi doctors to split between effective experimentation and administration of death-dealing poisons to the prisoners, and kindness and affectionate concern with their daughters and wives. If Daniel Berrigan got Lifton right, he wrote that book with the intent of following it by a second book in which he analyzes the same kind of splitting which goes on among contemporary doctors, highly paid and practising in our hospitals.150 I hope that Lifton, who is uniquely competent to do it, will finally write this book. I wanted to do it and didn’t have the ability.

We cannot be careful enough in refusing to act as splitters or in refusing to live a split life in that sense. And yet, in many circumstances, we cannot avoid acting as economic men of our time, performing certain professions and thus maiming our hearts. I look at this issue in the perspective of the “has been,” the historian, and in that way I avoid the deforming shadow that the future might throw on what I am analyzing.

illich-in-conversationch. III

(which cites nazi-docs in the notes.)

Etymology of science involves "splitting" (related to "schism"?)

Whereas modern science involves the splitting between observer and observed for the sake of experimentation (the word science comes from the Indo-European word skei which meant to cut or separate), and a thus a split between the physical object of study and the scientist’s removed deductions, nomadic science involves an intimacy between the nomad and her surroundings.


Philosopher Joanna Macy writes of the oblivion we manufacture for ourselves to keep us from looking environmental problems straight in the eye. She quotes R. J. Clifton[sic], a psychologist studying human response to catastrophe: “Suppression of our natural responses to disaster is part of the disease of our time. The refusal to acknowledge these responses causes a dangerous splitting. It divorces our mental calculations from our intuitive, emotional, and biological embeddedness in the matrix of life. That split allows us passively to acquiesce in the preparations for our own demise.”

braiding-sweetgrassch. 5

Illich & Kimmerer were both referring to Robert Jay Lifton


Wendell Potter, ex-Cigna exec

Obscuring the true costs of state-dwellers' actions through separation


Though we know precious little about the disposition of male war captives in Mesopotamia, in the Greco-Roman territories they were deployed as a kind of disposable proletariat in the most brutal and dangerous work: silver and copper mining, stone quarrying, timber felling, and pulling oars in galleys. The numbers involved were enormous, but because they worked at the sites of the resources, they were a far less visible presence—and far less a threat to public order-than if they had been near the court center.32 It would be no exaggeration at all to think of such work as an early gulag, featuring gang labor and high rates of mortality. Two aspects of this sector of slave labor deserve emphasis. First, mining, quarrying, and felling timber were absolutely central to the military and monumental needs of the state elites. These needs in the smaller Mesopotamian city-states were more modest but no less vital. Second, the luxury of having a disposable and replaceable proletariat is that it spared one's own subjects from the most degrading drudgery and thus forestalled the insurrectionary pressures that such labor well might provoke, while satisfying important military and monumental ambitions.

against-the-grainch. 170

(emphases added)

Deepwater was a rare laying-bare of the darker operations of the global extractive industries. One of the agreements tacitly made by consumers with these industries is that extraction and its costs will remain mostly out of sight, and therefore undisturbing to its beneficiaries. Those industries understand the market need for alienated labour, hidden infrastructure and the strategic concealment of both the slow violence of environmental degradation and the quick violence of accidents. Deepwater violated that agreement shockingly, manifesting a substance on which most modern human life depends but that few people encounter in the raw.

underlandch. 9

The compartmentalisation of modern migrant labour (e.g. in Singapore, Dubai)


fungibility, interchangeability (Foucault?)

While I refuse to reduce either economy or ecology to the other, there is one connection between economy and environment that seems important to introduce up front: the history of the human concentration of wealth through making both humans and nonhumans into resources for investment. This history has inspired investors to imbue both people and things with alienation, that is, the ability to stand alone, as if the entanglements of living did not matter. 5 Through alienation, people and things become mobile assets; they can be removed from their life worlds in distance-defying transport to be exchanged with other assets from other life worlds, elsewhere. 6 This is quite different from merely using others as part of a life world—for example, in eating and being eaten. In that case, multispecies living spaces remain in place. Alienation obviates living-space entanglement. The dream of alienation inspires landscape modification in which only one stand-alone asset matters; everything else becomes weeds or waste. Here, attending to living-space entanglements seems inefficient, and perhaps archaic. When its singular asset can no longer be produced, a place can be abandoned. The timber has been cut; the oil has run out; the plantation soil no longer supports crops. The search for assets resumes elsewhere. Thus, simplification for alienation produces ruins, spaces of abandonment for asset production.

mushroom-eowch. 5–6

Capitalist commodities, unlike kula objects, cannot carry the weight of entanglement histories and obligations. It is not simply exchange that defines capitalist commodities; alienation is required.

mushroom-eowch. 301

(emphases added)

compare "in eating and being eaten" above with indigenous philosophy thereof

As we talk beneath the oaks, one of the students emphatically disagrees: “Just because I say it doesn’t mean I disrespect nature. I grew up on a farm and we called all of our animals it, but we took great care of them. We just said it because everyone knows that you don’t give a name to the thing that you’re going to eat.” Exactly! We use it to distance ourselves, to set others outside our circle of moral consideration, creating hierarchies of difference that justify our actions—so we don’t feel.

In contrast, indigenous philosophy recognizes other beings as our relatives, including the ones we intend to eat. Sadly, since we cannot photosynthesize, we humans must take other lives in order to live. We have no choice but to consume, but we can choose to consume a plant or animal in a way that honors the life that is given and the life that flourishes as a consequence. Instead of avoiding ethical jeopardy by creating distance, we can embrace and reconcile that tension. We can acknowledge food plants and animals as fellow beings and through sophisticated practices of reciprocity demonstrate respect for the sacred exchange of life among relatives.

Speaking of Nature


nazi-docs Lifton, Robert Jay. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. ↩︎ 1

omelas Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas”. ↩︎ 1

mushroom-eow Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press. ↩︎ 1 2

underland Macfarlane, Robert. 2019. Underland: A Deep Time Journey. W. W. Norton & Company. ↩︎ 1

against-the-grain Scott, James C. 2017. Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. ↩︎ 1

braiding-sweetgrass Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. ↩︎ 1

anon-nomad-science Anonymous. “Alienation, Marvelous Pursuits and the New Nomadic Sciences”. [link] ↩︎ 1

illich-in-conversation Cayley, David. 1992. Ivan Illich in Conversation. House of Anansi Press. ↩︎ 1