What Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magic, and the Esoteric Can Teach Asian America About Love
(16 min read)
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF WHITE SUPREMACY
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke
According to French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, the Signifier refers to something that refers to something else³⁸. A good example is the Dewey Decimal System for organizing a library — the system contains three-digit numbers that assign a book to a designated shelf location based on subject. The Dewey Decimal System is an example of Lacan’s Signifier: a relative position in time and space that exists independently of the object it references (in this case, the actual book). Of course, a specific three-digit numeral signifier also derives its specific position through reference to other three-digit numeral signifiers, in an infinite regress. This is the basis of all Language — all words are signifiers, not the thing itself that it references, and form an infinitely expanding self-referential web, also known as a Discourse or Vocabulary, with another Signifier dictating structure, known as its Logic or Grammar. The book itself is known as a Sign.
“Asian” is also a Signifier, one invented by White Supremacy in order to assign us to a relative position in time and space — always in an inferior, subordinate position to White people. It is a degrading and humiliating classification in America and throughout the entire globe, which is why an entire race of people has begun to engage in a massive wave of Self-Hate — to drop all Signs of Yellowness, our clothes, our customs, our culture, our language, our food, our beliefs, our natural personalities, etc., in order to remove ourselves from the wretched situation we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, all such attempts are futile, since these poor saps don’t understand the Significance of being Asian — that it’s a formal classification used to always put you in your place, like the Dewey Decimal System.
The Signs of Yellowness that we seek to escape, of course, include other Asians, which provides a key insight into the motivating factor driving Asian women away from Asian men. In an article this December about an Asian specific online dating app called EastMeetsEast, GQ writer Wei Tchou makes the following self-observation³⁹:
“I had been interested in dating more Asian-American men, in fact—wouldn’t it be easier, I thought, to partner with someone who is also familiar with growing up between cultures? But while I set up my own profile, my skepticism returned, as soon as I marked my ethnicity as “Chinese.” I imagined my own face in a sea of Asian faces, lumped together because of what is essentially a meaningless distinction.”
The Signifier has transposed the Sign. The fear of being relegated to the margins of White American Society, the fate of all those categorized as “Asian” — represented visually in her mind through the White Supremacist imagery of an indistinguishable Yellow Horde — has completely hijacked her perception, and now she sees every actual Asian person as a reminder of her fundamentally inferior position, betraying her own secret desire to escape the oppressive structure that created this significance and meaning to Asian-ness.
Of course, because symbolic violence requires misrecognition according to Bourdieu, her psyche displaces this desire for escape into fear and loathing of a people she doesn’t really know (since she has never been able to truly see them without the scales of White Supremacy in her eyes), which only serves to push her deeper into the system that oppresses her. Consider this fact — Wei works for a magazine that ran a nearly bare-naked ass Ken Jeong posing like a fawning, prancing, clownish, castrated prop in the background of two generically good-looking white models making out, then goes on to say she finds the very concept of being with another Asian “racial reductionism”. This is an absurd proposition, seeing as how her employer — a racist White institution in its own right — gleefully enforces the boundaries of her racial Signifier through symbolic violence towards her fellow Asians, as well as the total lack of institutional power we have as a people to define and categorize race in this country.
This misplaced desire to flee your own people — because White Supremacy has beaten into your head that they’re all losers at the bottom of the totem pole — is known in psychology as distancing, or Racial Disidentification⁴⁰. Racial disidentification is defined as psychological distancing from a social identity that’s under attack to preserve a positive sense of self. In the face of a threat to your very being, your fight or flight system engages. Except, because you have been trained from birth by a White Supremacist culture and White racists that White is Right, you dare not direct your disgust and hate upwards. Instead, you project it onto your own brothers and sisters⁴¹. This comes out most starkly in the findings of Diane Fujino and Peter Chua, who discovered that Asian women, on top of other things, see Asian men as Exotic! Who does that make “Normal”, I wonder?
Examples of Asian women psychologically distancing themselves from Asians and Asian men under threat of White Supremacy, to preserve individuality for themselves.
How does White Supremacy cast such a spell over the thoughts and senses of an entire People? The answer is simple: Magic.
According to the 20th-century English Esotericist and “wickedest man in the world” Aleister Crowley, Magic is defined as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”. In the Western context, “Magic” is the category of customs, beliefs, spiritual practices, and traditions that lie outside the formal institutional Discourse of Science and the Church. However, there is nothing inherently about the notion and concept of Magic that contradicts the core principles of Science: 1) Goodness-of-Fit to observed empirical phenomena; 2) Reliability in producing consistent Outcomes; 3) Non-Contradiction. In fact, this is what separates true Magick from Illusion (Performance Magic) and Make Believe (Bullshit).
America’s Got Talent Winner and Illusionist Shin Lim practices Magic on Jimmy Fallon
When one carefully considers Hume’s Problem, one soon comes to realize that there is no substantive difference between the idea of Correlation in the Philosophy of Science and Hidden Sympathies in the Occult. The physical Universe at large — whose true Nature is fundamentally unknowable to us — is indifferent to whether you believe in Newton’s Law of Gravity or that the souls of the Dead anchor us all to this planet, so long as either can accurately describe and reliably predict the movement of physical bodies in Space and over Time. Other than the large, racist and colonialist, political and economic bodies and institutions that act as wizened, bespectacled curators and gatekeepers of Western Scientific Discourse (phrenology, Nazi eugenics, and “Scientific Racism”, anyone?), nobody cares whether you practice the Scientific Method in a sober state of mind in a white lab coat or under the influence of psychedelic drugs in druidic robes, as long as you can consistently produce desired outcomes. In Magick, this is primarily accomplished through the use of Sigils.
Examples of Medieval and Modern Sigils
A Sigil⁴² is a Symbol — A Lacanian Signifier that represents something else — used in Magic since medieval times. This can be a pentagram, goat’s blood, a demon’s signature, or a pair of blue suede shoes. More recently, in Chaos Magic, a Sigil is a representation of a Desired Outcome, which must then be internalized by the subject one desires to Change (either yourself or others). Sigils derive their power from the Human Unconscious — first, they are imbued with a constellation of thoughts, associations, actions, dream-images, and other symbolic representations. They are then used as a vehicle by Magick practitioners to try and influence the physical world, primarily through manipulating the behavior and properties of human beings. The necessary corollary to this is that all advertisers are Magicians.
This includes that mendacious warlock Edward Bernays⁴³ — the Austrian-American Father of Propaganda and fellow alumni of my old employer Procter & Gamble — who transfigured cigarettes into pseudo-feminist “Freedom Torches” for women in 1929, and also managed to engineer the downfall of the democratically elected Guatemalan government by the CIA in 1954⁴⁴. The latter was accomplished through a widespread, concerted public relations campaign on behalf of the United Fruit Company⁴⁵, which was incensed over the popular Guatemalan Revolution in 1944 that had unseated the military dictator Jorge Ubico and curtailed the Company’s exploitative labor practices, which Ubico (“Central America’s Napoleon”) had given free reign. How did Bernays accomplish this feat of most foul sorcery?
THE MAGIC OF ADVERTISING
“God is dead.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. Of course, “God” is just a Signifier, and not the Sign itself (hence the frequent admonishments against “graven images” — which yes, can include reified objects like crosses, Bibles, sanctuaries, and Churches — interwoven throughout the Abrahamic texts). Yet an entire “meme complex” — sets of mental associations that are bundled together like singing and guitar playing, Christmas trees and Christmas dinners — has sprung up around this most holy of Sigils, driving both the course of human affairs and world history at an unimaginable, unprecedented scale. One would be hard pressed to find a Sigil that has gone more viral in all of human history.
The virality of a Sigil is a sign of its potency. Of course, the toxic heads of the Lernaean Hydra⁴⁶ that is White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy — the oldest Gentlemen’s Club — are well aware of the power of Sigils and the enormous earthly powers they unleash when combined with viral transmission. Every year, these silver-haired potentates — oil barons, musicians, movie directors, broadcast journalists, former U.S. Presidents — meet at a 2,700 acre campground in Monte Rio, California, known as Bohemian Grove⁴⁷, where they engage in rituals, rites, and esoteric ceremonies meant to foster bonds of relational solidarity and class consciousness amongst the American male ruling elite⁴⁸ (one of the most gloried-in rituals of the encampment is the freedom of powerful white men to piss wherever they like, in direct defiance of government anti-sex discrimination efforts⁴⁹). As an aside to all pseudo-feminists — Asian American men are definitively NOT a part of this eldritch cabal.
Of course, this secretive council of global white male oppressors — which includes the Koch brothers, the Rockefellers, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, William R. Hearst III, George H.W. Bush, Francis Ford Coppola, and the racist war criminal Hank Kissinger — swears that there is no untoward collusion afoot (captured in their nominal slogan of “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”), a protest that rings a bit hollow considering how planning for the Manhattan Project took place at the Grove in 1942, leading to the creation of the Atom Bomb and summoning into existence the dread specter of total annihilation of Life on this planet. Protests against these embodiments of Patriarchal Domination take place annually, both from women’s activist groups and local environmentalists.
These Masters of the Universe, these titans of politics, entertainment, and industry who revel in their symbolic phallic domination of the Earth, have long ago cracked the code of the ancient Alchemists. They have successfully brewed, in their little laboratories and social psychology experiments, a whole new breed of magical terror — what Grant Morrison, the Scottish writer for DC Comics, refers to as Super, or Hyper-Sigils:
“Corporate sigils are super-breeders. They attack unbranded imaginative space. They invade Red Square, they infest the cranky streets of Tibet, they etch themselves into hairstyles. They breed across clothing, turning people into advertising hoardings…
The logo or brand, like any sigil, is a condensation, a compressed, symbolic summoning up of the world of desire which the corporation intends to represent…
Walt Disney died long ago but his sigil, that familiar, cartoonish signature, persists, carrying its own vast weight of meanings, associations, nostalgia, and significance.”
Other symbols of Super-Sigils include McDonald’s Golden Arches, the Virgin autograph, and the Nike swoosh. These modern corporate logos exert an incredible influence on the collective Group Imagination of Society, otherwise known as its cultural milieu or zeitgeist, through a combination of their artificially created meme-complexes⁵⁰ and their sheer ubiquity across every possible platform and form of media (the plural for “mediums”, or those who communicate with spirits). This alchemical process is best encapsulated in the following exchange between media executive Don Draper and retail store heiress Rachel Menken from the television series Mad Men, a period drama about the high-pressure world of advertising on Madison Avenue in the 1960s (and which often shot on-location at one of my favorite haunts for Midori Sours and fried chicken, The Prince in KTown LA):
Rachel Menken: “For a lot of people, Love isn’t just a slogan.”
Don Draper: “By “Love”, you mean big lightning bolts to the heart, where you can’t eat, and you can’t work, and you just run off and get married and make babies. The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call “Love” was invented by guys like me… to sell nylons.”
— Mad Men, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Of course, research into subliminal advertising by psychologists⁵¹ shows that you have to be in the mood for Love in order to be influenced by meme-complexes. For example, one study found that when words relating to thirst were subliminally shown to people that were already thirsty, they would later drink more. In another, liquor store patrons bought more German wine when German music was playing in the store, and more Italian wine when Italian music was playing in the store (talk about the importance of Ambience!). We are also unconsciously influenced by the actions of others — people who watch someone eating ice cream before getting a chance to eat ice cream themselves, will unknowingly eat the same amount as the person they observed earlier (all learning is mimetic in nature). These scientific findings are all consistent with the tenets of Chaos Magic, which states that you can only force an entity to assume a state that it is already predisposed towards (for example, you cannot transmogrify a tree into a body of water, but you may be able to make all its leaves fall off).
How is this relevant to the dating lives of Asian Americans? Racist stereotypes are also a form of Super-Sigil thanks to centuries of amplification, replication, and maintenance, and have become deeply embedded in Art, Religion, and Culture through a process known as “intertextuality”. That’s right, White Racism is literally the Dark Arts, and White Supremacists have often dabbled in the Occult, including the Nazis⁵². In 2015, three Virginia men were charged with plotting to attack and bomb Black churches and Jewish synagogues. Two of the suspects, Ronald Chaney and Robert Doyle, were found to subscribe to a white supremacist pagan cult known as “Odinism”⁵³, which is a modern expression of an ancient, polytheistic Nordic belief system that reveres gods such as Thor for being purer expressions of the “White Race” than the foreign, Jewish “Christianity”. In the 1990s, there was a schism in the Illuminates of Thanateros⁵⁴ — an international organization that focuses on practical group work in Chaos Magic — after a German member named Helmut Barthel created the white supremacist doctrine of “Ice Magic”, which supposedly only people of Scandinavian and/or Germanic descent possess the ability to wield due to their “superior genetics”. Sound familiar?
Top: Frozen (2013); Thor (2011); Bottom: Nagini, a literal Dragon Lady to Magical Hitler⁵⁵, in Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
This interweaving of Art and Culture with parasitic white supremacist images is one of the primary vectors of transmission of racist Yellow stereotypes. As with all Sigils, such images work best when they infiltrate the unconscious minds of their observers, where they can then mutate into an Imago — a prototypical, mental image of a class of people that influences all perceptual and cognitive interpretations of those people by the host of the Imago. This is accomplished through a psychological process known as Confirmation Bias, which is merely the tendency of the human mind to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that is already aligned with its psychological constructs, the unspoken and unconscious belief systems which we all operate on. And what Imago of Yellow men has white supremacist, imperialist America projected into the minds of the country’s inhabitants?
“In order to prevent miscegenation, the intermingling of races, from occurring, popular images of Asian men as sexually deviant, asexual, effeminate, or luring White women to their opium dens were created (J. Chan, 2001; Espiritu, 1997).
Throughout the 1900s, stereotypical images of Asian American men were seen in cartoons, Broadway shows, film, and television shows (J. Chan, 2001; Espiritu, 1997; Okihiro, 1994). The movie character Dr. Fu Manchu was an Oriental mastermind who typified the lack of heterosexuality and the Yellow Peril at the same time (Espiritu). The buck-toothed bumbling image of Asian American men could be seen in movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, while the nerdy, lustful image could be seen in Sixteen Candles (Wong, 1993). In the Broadway production M. Butterfly, the effeminate image of Asian American men became intertwined with issues of sexuality when the lead character was a cross-dressing Chinese male spy who falls in love with a British male spy (J. Chan). The Joy Luck Club became a mainstream Asian American movie that had very few, if any, redeeming Asian and Asian American men (J. W. Chan, 1998). They were portrayed as misogynistic and cheap, and their Asian American women love interests turned to relationships with White men.”
— Yen Ling Shek, “Asian American Masculinity: A Review of the Literature”⁵⁶
According to Karen Pyke, these images — which kluge together in the unconscious to form a deformed Yellow homunculus that magically transposes itself onto every Asian man in real life — cast a hypnotic spell over Asian American women. In her article Asian American Women and Racialized Femininities: “Doing” Gender across Cultural Worlds, she writes: “controlling images of Asian men as hypermasculine” — “MRAsians”, anyone? — “further feed presumptions that whites are more egalitarian. Racialized images and the construction of hegemonic (white) and subordinated (Asian) forms of gender set up a situation where Asian American women feel they must choose between white worlds of gender equity and Asian worlds of gender oppression”⁵⁷. It’s important to note that neither of these “worlds” are actually REAL but are instead fictional images implanted into folks’ minds through Society!
Pyke goes on to say that “such images encourage them to reject their ethnic culture” — which is sublimated as Wei Tchou’s desire to escape “racial reductionism” — “and Asian men and embrace the white world and white men so as to enhance their power.” In other words, Asian women in America who refuse to romantically involve themselves with Asian men and make themselves sexually available to White men are explicitly doing so in order to escape the social stigmatization of being Asian, which Asian American feminist professor at UC San Diego, Yen Le Espiritu chronicled back in 1997 in her book Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love. The community has grappled with this thorny problem now for over two decades, despite knowing exactly why this phenomenon of Asian women fleeing Asian men occurs.
This July 2018 FastCompany article on Asian Americans being “likable” in the workplace reveals the Imago, Maxwell’s Demon of Perception, at Work⁵⁸
These types of racist images — Hate Speech in its truest form — are known as “enemy images”⁵⁹ in psychology, and governments around the world use them to induce their populations into a state of mass indifference to murder, as a precursor to war or genocide. This white supremacist propaganda then replicates itself like a virus, breaking free of TV screens like the little ghost girl in The Ring, and emerging in all types of social contexts, such as the family, peer groups, or authority figures. These people, now acting as beacons to summon the demonic form of the Yellow Peril — continue to transmit the Imago unknowingly through their gut reactions and statements towards and about Asian men and Asian people. Any and all behaviors and statements by Asian men are seen as coming from the gaping, ghastly maw of the irascible and grotesque Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Talk about a Horn effect!
Of course, the problem for Asian women in this scenario is that whether you’re with an Asian or not doesn’t make a lick of difference to White people — under a system of White supremacy, Asian men and women are Signifiers for each other, i.e., our collective stereotypes reference each other to form a matrix of possible positions that we can legitimately occupy in mainstream society, otherwise known as our Racial Caste. This is most easily illustrated with the most vulgar tropes for us — Asian men having small dicks means Asian women must have the tightest vaginas, right? Asian men being inferior lovers means Asian women must be the most easily satisfied (hypersexual), correct?
Symbolic violence done towards one of us, is violence done towards all of us. There is no escaping our entwined fates.
What, then, is to be done? Well, it’s important to remember that symbolic violence arises from misrecognition. The misrecognition is not that Whites reign supreme. White Supremacy is a material reality. Whites really do rule the world. The misrecognition stems from the fact that our unconscious minds have been taught to see this as something natural — “just a preference” — when in reality, it is actually an unnatural Lovecraftian nightmare that’s been dreamt up by powerful White men pissing on our collective psyches.
In order to fight the Unnatural, it is necessary to harness the Power of the Supernatural.
Written by Albert Joon-Ho Hur
[Edited by J]