Friday, May 29, 2015

Digital & Dogs

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-  Ever had the experience of talking about one thing and suddenly you know the answer to another thing you were thinking about?
- Sure.
- Speaking a language is one special thing we do with thinking.
- And the others?
- Other. There is only one: we act. Speaking is story telling, a narration of something that happened in the past or a story of what we will do in the future. Thinking when not story telling is productive: every movement through the world gives a new version of the world to our senses which we actively combine with what we've perceived before, doing this always while looking for the kind of thing we want.
- Desire guides what sort of categories we look for.
- Yes. We look for what we want.
- Isn't there a kind of thinking somewhere in the middle, between telling stories, and making stories?
- There is. When we have made a new class to put the individual impressions, perceptions, images into, and we like what we see, we continuously produce that sight holding onto the memory of how we got there.
- Which is what you call contemplation of beauty.
- Which we have talked about many times before. It doesn't go on too long because of the demands of the body to move, to maintain itself.
- And once we move we immediately have more experience to lead us back to the sight of something new and beautiful.
- Yes. Now what happens when you are talking about one thing and you solve a completely different problem is that the language supplies new arrangements of images, versions of the world which then thinking without language, which never stops, pounces upon to arrange experience in a new way.
- Thinking never stops?
- No. It moves from story telling of language, to contemplation of beauty, to search for new classifications incorporating constantly arising new experience. That's only when we do thinking right. We often mix up the categories. Instead of language being the tool of thought, thought itself becomes the tool of language. We come to think it's beautiful when we repeat the same actions to have the same thoughts.
- Why isn't it beautiful?
- Remember that in contemplation we have turned our backs on new perception temporarily. We are repeating the same thought, not the same action. Language is a tool that helps us produce more complex learning than is possible without it. As long as we moving, are not going backwards limiting action by language, we are on the way to learning.
- Does thought tell stories without language?
- Certainly. The stories just aren't in words. All emotions are such wordless story telling: love, melancholy, joy, sadness, hope, dread, anticipation.
- I've read that animals don't use language in the way we do. Only human language is hierarchical: each new element builds on the previous ones.
- Each new element limits the possibilities by specifying what sort of thing in a class is meant: There is a dog. What does the dog do? It goes. Where does the dog go? To the door.
- Then if as some say we think in language, we are always progressively limiting our experience in the story we tell.
- That's correct.
- But if that's true, how do we connect one story to another?
- How indeed.
- What do the theorist say?
- They are silent.
- Theorists of language are silent.
- Do you remember the debate about whether analog recordings of music were better than the new digital recordings?
- Analog sound is richer. You don't think so?
- Analog is like thought, continuously moving forward. Digital is like language, one story after another.
- And like we are fooled by digital music's fast sampling followed by gaps of silence, we are fooled into accepting that our thought could be sentence followed by sentence. Sentences are samples of thought.
- You could say. Linguists have learned that these samples of thought tend to fall into two basic classes of how they limit experience. They differ in whether they focus on activity or on things, focus on movement or on stasis. The ones that focus on things tend to have a separate verb for each thing mentioned, where those focusing on activity can make do with one verb with many phrases indicating the path of movement.
- Why two different ways?
- The distinction reflects the two phases of thought: new experience, then new synthesis into new classes. You can see the same division in traditional sex roles: male focuses on activity, female on stasis.
- But why should we limit ourselves in this way in language and social roles?
- The most general reflection on thinking we can make with language is that we act, acquiring new instances of experience, then we class those instances.
- And we then wrongly constrain our thinking and social life on the basis of that reflection in language?
- Yes.
- Let's go back to animals and humans. If they don't use our special, progressively limited and often backward leading language, are they nevertheless thinking?
- Sure they are. I'll give you an example. In activity focused languages...
- Of which English is one?
- Yes. In activity focused languages we say things like, "The ball fell down to the floor". We don't add, "The ball is now on the floor", which stasis focused languages tend to do in a separate phrase.
- We infer it. If the ball is falling towards, it is going to get there, unless we hear in another sentence that it didn't.
- We take the language to thought for expansion and completion. Language serves thought. Now at least one dog has been trained to go get many named objects. When it is told to go get an object with a name it's never heard before, it goes to look, comes back, goes again, and then understands: the new object there among the many known named others must be the one with the new name, and that is the one he takes.
- The dog has experience of going to a place where many named things are to get "x". Then new experience is added: he goes to the place of many named things and sees a new unnamed thing is there. Like the ball that in activity language falls to the floor, with no added description in language of the ball being on the floor, but this is inferred by thought, so the dog hears, "go get "x" but completes the description of "x" with experience of that new unnamed object seen among the named others. And this appeal of language to experience you say is appeal to thought.
- Experience that can arbitrate and complete language seems to deserve the title.
- I'm convinced. Do you know why?
- Why?
- Because dogs have moods, and as you say, moods are thought without language. They feel, they think, only don't have complex hierarchical language.
- And we have complex hierarchical language and commonly don't feel and don't think.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Atrophy Of Good

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- My mother when she was already very old, the year before she died, told me for the thousandth time I should write about my family.
- You haven't much.
- No. The problem is I don't know what I am looking at. Was this strange tribe I was born into mere ordinary people making ordinary compromises but retaining ordinary good nature at other times and places? Were they monsters, or was I, for not being able to accept them?
- And?
- And I've got this idea...
- Tell me about it.
- A rock, or a machine, protected from the effects of the world around will last. But the opposite is true of us human beings, of animals in general. We can't without drastic consequences isolate ourselves. If we don't move through the world, our muscles atrophy, our memory fades. Have you ever thought how strange this is?
- No. Why is it strange?
- Because muscle atrophy and memory loss is an active process: there is a balance in which using muscles inhibits the setting in motion in the muscle itself of a muscle decaying process; when we stop moving, the inhibition ends and the process of "self-eating" begins. The same goes on with memory, though we know nothing of how this works, unlike with muscles where some of the mechanisms are becoming known.
- We are made to keep moving.
- Yes. Our minds and bodies have a homeostasis mechanism that works to maintain a balance. But the results of the process is setting us out into the world where new things happen. We both move, and we remember. Together movement through the world, and memory, provide the conditions of knowledge: is this new place like that old place or not? Even nematodes, the million species little worms from .1mm to 2.5mm long accounting for 80% of all animals, with a scant couple hundred neurons are known to learn.
- Our need to keep moving and exercise our memory sets us out on a path of knowledge. Eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and be expelled from the garden of Eden and set to work, and learn too, when we're not killing each other.
- Yes! Is there an equivalent process at work in our social life? Is there a mechanism in our social arrangements which makes them decay if they don't keep moving towards knowledge?
- Is there?
- I think there is. Our old friend ritual seems to play the role of the "self-eating" process that is triggered in the decline of movement.
- And what is social movement? Culture?
- Learning how to best live with each other.
- So when we stop looking into the question we rely on rules, roles, ritually repeat the same moves. And you say this destroys - what? - the social body?
- The rule following and role play involves the "self-eating" process of violence against any deviation of practice.
- How is this connected with your family? Did you think they were trying to eat you up?
- I did. But what I'm interested in now is the question of judgement: when we say of the Nazis that in their spare time when not killing they loved their children like everyone else, or say the same of our corrupt politicians and government bribing business leaders, is this even possible to be true? Or is the good we seem to see in them really the vanity of their saying to themselves, "I'm the kind of person who loves family and appreciates high art"?
- What about with your family? What did you experience?
- Demand for ritual conformity. Complete incomprehension of me. But lets go back to the question of judgement. It's something that has been bothering me for a long time. Despite all the corruption and compromise of everyday life, we are told the world is getting safer and richer. More democracies, more income, better health, less killing, at least percentage wise (there are a lot more people these days). But if we look to test the theory that a society not moving forward is moving backward, we see a new world of huge numbers of people living in freedom-destroying, role assigning, rule enforcing hierarchies, wage slaves of one kind or another.*
- Which you interpret as meaning billions are now forced participants in the "self-eating" process, the atrophy of the social body.
- Yes. The atrophy of good. What do you think?
- What has this to do with your mother?
- My question has always been whether I was right to rebel. What did I know about the balance of factors that went into the choice to compromise? What did I know about these people, father, mother, brothers?
- And this new bit of culture you've made up provides your justification. Do you believe it? Your family was going down and trying to take you with them?
- I acted on that belief.
- You kept moving.
____________________
* "Hence arose the national wars, battles, murders, and reprisals which make nature tremble and shock reason, and all those horrible prejudices which rank the honor of shedding human blood among the virtues. The most decent men learned to consider it one of their duties to murder their fellowmen; at length men were seen to massacre each other by the thousands without knowing why; more murders were committed on a single day of fighting and more horrors in the capture of a single city than were committed in the state of nature during whole centuries over the entire face of the earth." (J. J. Rousseau)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's All Good

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- Do you miss L.A.?
- I miss a kind of charming stupidity to be found nowhere else. I remember the man I used to see at Whole Foods Market every day who greeted me with, 'It’s all good!'
- What’s charming about that? Boring, fatalistic, new-age pseudo Buddhism. Nothing is bad you don’t make bad yourself by thinking about it, so don’t think about it. If that is all you miss about L.A. you should have answered me, No, It’s all stupid!
- The charming part is you can learn from the stupidity. One Buddhist text* describes meditation as contemplating the body in the body: “The monk, breathing in a long breath, knows 'I am breathing in a long breath’; breathing in a short breath, he knows he is breathing in a short breath." In order to say ‘All is good’, about our world of child slavery, prostitution, torture, war, etc. we call upon such a circling dance of thought and observation. We calm ourselves with ourselves. We can also calm ourselves in a dance with others in the collective behavior we call ritual. We do the dance and tell ourselves we are doing the dance.
- And we’re ready to murder and torture.
- Take the average Los Angeleno and put him in government and he’s ready to start any number of wars, rob the poor to pay the rich, in fact, do anything he can get away with. Up the coast in Santa Cruz, sister city to Los Angeles in spirituality, there is this professor of physics who has a remarkable idea.
- You mean charmingly stupid.
- Self-professed lesbian and feminist, she’s applies Bohr’s theory of complementarity to the social sciences and claims a lesbian, a woman, a human uses a different perceptual apparatus than a non-lesbian, a man, a non-human, and sees the world differently and inconsistently.
- Are you sure that isn’t true?
- No. I am sure though that this professor and no one else has yet looked.
- What are all the thousands of books on the subject doing then?
- Meditating! If a woman wants to tell me, a man, that women see the world more as a whole, I say, fine, what else is new, such has been known for thousands of years. Tell me how woman see a different world than men, then you will impress me.
- That woman just did.
- No she didn’t. She told me women see more often one part of the world, and men see more often another part. She hasn’t showed me that the two ways of seeing the world are inconsistent. One sees the glass half full of water, the other half empty, but in both cases the same glass is there and the world is the same.
- Why is it important that the world seen be inconsistent?
- Inconsistency is what tells us the world is being investigated, not merely used as excuse for meditation and ritual.
- And what is investigation exactly?
- Determination that when I do this, that follows.
- When Niels Bohr uses one experimental apparatus looking at photons, he sees waves, when he uses another, he see particles. Different, inconsistent worlds.
- Yes. If there is a lesbian or female apparatus of investigation, what world has it revealed inconsistent with the world seen by non-lesbians and males?
- Don’t ask me. But let them look.
- Who’s stopping them? But remember the story of Galileo and the Inquisition.
- Remind me.
- Contrary to popular belief, the Inquisition did not want to forbid Galileo from proposing that the sun was the center planets revolved around. What the Inquisition demanded was that he allow equal status the Church’s view that the earth was at the center.
- They were both theories, and theories were only ways of getting at the truth.
- Yes. But Galileo refused. Do you know why?
- Why?
- Because the Church’s attachment to theory was not the result of operating a research apparatus, but of not wanting to disturb the place the earth center view had in meditation and ritual.
- So the Church and Galileo's views didn’t differ like waves and particles at all.
- Right.
- Ok, put that aside. In L.A. and Santa Cruz they are just faking it. Let’s say though men and woman, and each of us as individuals, operate different apparatuses in Bohr’s sense, and see inconsistent worlds. We communicate because in the act of looking at the world we are living in the same world, and we know some things through that physical living in the same world? In addition to what we perceive though experiment?
- Yes.
- And the social role self-identifying meditator ritualists don’t live in the world so don’t communicate with each other?
- Yes again.
- I’ve heard that Galileo was both deeply religious and an alchemist. Maybe he believed his investigation into the world changed the world through the agency of “another” world.
- In fact, communication between inconsistent roles is not particularly mysterious. In every novel we read or theater performance we attend we get out of ourselves and into the represented characters. In fairy tales we are transformed into other species, the other sex, other social roles.
- It’s like we can sometimes be the wave, sometimes be the particle, because it is all not real. What’s real then?
- The world there to look at when we investigate. If the meditators and ritualists weren’t busy like the Inquisition protecting their meditations and rituals, claiming it’s all good, they’d be able to practice a very simple rule: when you see something bad, either do something to try to change it if you think you can and the time is right, or if not, look away towards something beautiful.
- Thinking and acting are different apparatuses.
- Try meditating on that!
__________________
*Satipatthana Sutta

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reading Minds

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- I'd like to ask you something I think about more than probably is good for me. Do you think people can sometimes read each other's minds?
- My so-called wife and I used to do it regularly.
- And do you think it was inspired guessing, or some direct communication?
- My thought touching hers, her thought touching mine.
- Yes. Whatever those words mean.
- There's actually a way to look at it that is somewhere between the two alternatives.
- And that is?
- The theory Niels Bohr came up with to explain how using one experimental apparatus to look at electrons he saw waves, using another experimental apparatus he saw particles. He said that we with our experimental apparatus we were co-creators with nature of the object we saw: the wave, or the particle. Both were equally real.
- So you think that you and your wife had been living closely together in the same world that was drawn upon to compose your separate perceptions, and that was why, with your much different characters, you could know each other's thoughts?
- A bit of communing, a bit of guessing. It's a theory. Rather a dangerous one.
- Why?
- Because people don't have faith; faith being reason's determination of the limits of reason, that there is another world out there. If science shows us that sometimes we see waves, sometimes we see particles when we look at electrons, maybe we are right to think our social roles or physical differences lock us into operating different and inconsistent apparatuses.
- We can't help seeing the world differently.
- Yes. And if we don't "have faith" in that other world behind the fact we observe of different worlds being seen by different apparatuses, the best we can do is tolerate each other with mutual incomprehension.
- Then you are arguing that you did, in fact, communicate with your wife on a level prior to thought?
- Alright, yes, But that level was something ordinary, was our shared everyday life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Philosophy Of Ideology And Perpetual War

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(Continued from The Unconscious)

- Why do countries make war whenever they can? I know, in defense of their ideology, you already said that. But why ideology? What makes people ideological?
- Do you think philosophy can answer that question?
- Why not, if it takes the trouble first to define ideology? "Unconscious belief with social function".
- I think philosophy can give an answer. Not directly, but by being an example itself of ideology.
- And with the example will we know what makes people become ideologues?
- Let's see.
- Ok. This will be fun. The Marxist Zizek says Marxism is a kind of capitalism, caught up in the very ideology it criticizes. Is Zizek caught up in ideology too, also a kind of capitalist?
- He is.
- How?
- By being restless. Marxism is a theory of constant production, of history without rest.
- We'll rest at the end of history in the communist utopia.
- Yes. Until then, work. Zizek uses both Hegel and Lacan. In Hegel's philosophy of history each new idea achieved has encompassed in its field of application a world part of which contradicts it. We must have ideas, but according to Zizek's Lacanian psychoanalysis, any idea involves ideology, some part of which is social and group motivated and which we as individuals instinctively disobey, withdraw our consent from, and with violence of spirit move warily towards the formation of a new idea,helplessly taking on a new ideology. We never rest in ideas because in every case they are against us and contradictory, we never rest in being ourselves, are never individuals in our breaking out of ideas because our escape is violent and blind and our flight follows a pure logic drawing us on to formation of a new idea inevitably under the influence of our society and family.
-  We might as well go all-out and say these philosophies are Fascist: celebrating violence in action and in politics, seeing the stability of society always at risk from a "contradiction", the alien, infecting influence, a race, a religion, immigrants... Philosophies of ideas and of ideology describe worlds without rest, Fascist worlds. Where do we go from here?
- Ideology leads to war, restlessness leads to ideology.
- You don't think they arise together?
- In fact, I do. But both together arise from loss of a prior behavior.
- Which is what?
- Individual action and individual thought.
- And where is that individual action and thought if we all live in society?
- It's there, each individual safely enclosed in his own separate body. Hegel and Marx's theories of history, Freud and Lacan's pychoanalysis, describe a development in history of societies and families, not how an individual learns, acquires ideas.
- Which I take it involves rest?
- Yes! We learn by moving our bodies through the world, we develop habits of perception and of production. When our habits, as one modern philosopher of the body put it, sets our bodies in "poise" with the world, we rest, sinking down into the physical relief of beauty that accompanies the arrival of a new idea about the world. An individual who learns from his actual particular place in the world attends carefully to that place, is not violent against the place that is his teacher, and an individual who reaches a new accommodation with the world is not troubled by any contradiction.
- Is anti-ideological and anti-Fascist. People become ideological when they stop being individuals, and they stop being individuals when their societies pressure them to conform. I'm not sure we've gotten anywhere.
- But we have. If ideology is restless and ideology leads to permanent war, we have to fight against restlessness. We have to prevent it.
- By being individuals, who are subject to the demands of their families and societies to become ideologues.
- By being individuals who fight to keep hold of beauty in their lives.
- Art is going to save us from war.
- Do you have a better idea?

The Unconscious

-  I haven't read your latest, "War". The subject is too depressing.
-  It's about a research study that concludes that countries make war when they can. The more opportunity, the more war.
- See what I mean!
- No I don't. The more we know the better.
- Not if we can't do anything.
- That is something we don't know. Why do countries want to make war on each other? Is the behavior shown by those in control of countries the same as behavior in personal life? Or is it something different, the result of what is called institutional pressure coming from demands of their groups?
- Aren't they the same? In our personal life we have our groups too, family, friends, work.
- Then if we know better how in our personal lives we allow our groups to send us into battle, as it were, and assuming changing individual behavior is more in our control that changing the behavior of groups, and changed individual behavior would change the behavior of our groups, we'd have some positive means of action.
- A lot of assumptions.
- Yes. Should we try anyway?
- Why not.
- To make use of an old word, let's say group behavior, as distinguished from personal behavior, is based on ideology.
- Defined as what?
- Unconscious belief with social function.
- What is social function?
- The agreement that creates or maintains the society as a group rather than a collection of individuals with nothing in common but being in the same group. Are you going to ask next what is meant by unconscious?
- I was.
- Good. I think that unconscious behavior is the product of our lives in a group.
- You don't think it is part of our fundamental psychological make-up?
- I don't. If it were fundamental psychology it would be mysterious and inaccessible. Since it is a product of living in a group we can account step-for-step what we did in a group to produce it.
- Produce the account.
- Last week I heard an artist who creates performances with robots talk about how to make robots walk. If you try to program the movement of each part of the body separately you get the robot to walk, but with an awkward not very human walk. Another way to do it is to work without any programming at all. Set motors on each leg going continuously to move each leg back when in contact with the floor and design the robot frame such that the whole robot falls first on one leg, then another. That produces a recognizably human walk.
- Amazing.
- The idea is that what we think involves intelligence often does not. It occurred to me that here was a way to describe where the unconscious comes from. In our lives in a group things are arranged such that we can continuously fall like the robot as we repeat certain fundamental movements. For the robots, motors pulled back their legs. For us, fear, and hatred. the passions, do the same work of driving us forward. The ideas of the group are learned without self awareness in our childhood and youth. We acquire these "motors" under threat and with reward. Society gives us the push that sets us into the fall, and society makes the level ground for us to walk on.
- The level ground is the ideology, which our motors have been adjusted to make our fall agree with.
- Yes. Do you see the implication? As the robot has no programming, so we have no consciousness of what we are doing. "Capitalism is the only alternative"? Fall, step, fall, step. "There is no truth"? Fall, step, fall, step.
- So we say these words, but in fact, they have no personal meaning: we can't account for why we are saying them.
- That's right.
- How does a society provide the level floor to walk on?
- Rules, rituals, customs. Anything regular to elicit a regular response.
- So we are whipped and bribed into our falling. We acquire unconsciously the ideas of the society and we hold these ideas unconsciously, as long as the floor stays level. Wars, I think you are going to say, are to make sure the floor stays more and more level. Am I correct?
- You are.
- And, as I always ask, what are we supposed to do about it?
- In a second. First I want to say that there is another kind of unconsciousness that is not ideological, is not group behavior but individual thought: the unconsciousness of self in contemplation of the world. After doing the work of learning what goes on in the world or in a lover's life, we rest in the world's or a lover's beauty. But in ideology, there never is any rest. Ideology can be immediately spotted using this distinction.
- You mean that if I say there is no alternative to capitalism, I don't see anything out there? No person, no world. Actually I am just falling, leaning my leg motors into action one after another as I lean down on one side then other.
- Exactly.
- What are we going to do about it?
- If unconscious behavior is not a fundamental of group life, but an alternative to individual conscious behavior, then it is a reasonable project to work to discourage the one and encourage the other.
- And you find having the benefit of that conclusion encouraging, despite the fact that wars are becoming more frequent?
- I do. You don't?
- Education. It is a very old story. It doesn't seem to be working very well for us. We've been educating mostly in the very technical knowledge, social organization and machine making, that allows countries to make wars more frequently. You imagine a future of the kind of education that would allow us to fall into beauty rather than on the face of society. Alright. I'll let you have your dream. At least it's not unconscious.

Further Reading:
Philosophy Of Ideology And Perpetual War

Sunday, April 19, 2015

War

- There's this problem that's been bothering me for some time.
- What's that?
- You know how the European Union is destroying its weaker member countries by austerity policies, even though its own research institutions have reported that the only outcome of these policies is destruction. What I realizes is that, of course, the leaders of the EU don't believe in all this stuff they talk about, free market, tolerance. But what they do believe in is the punishment of austerity, at least when it is another's austerity. For the last hundred years or so wars, though generally involving a lower percentage of population, have been becoming more and more frequent.* This is because with the breakdown of colonialism there are more countries. There are also more democracies, and democracy don't fight wars at all with other democracies. They do however fight wars with non-democracies, and there are more of them too, just as there are more democracies. Financial strength and high technology reduce costs and make it more likely that a country will start a war. Wars, ever less destructive and more frequent, with an average 60 percent chance of losing once initiated , still are a good investment when the rewards of success are high.
- And what new do you conclude out of all that?
- In The United States and the European Union the rich, through their control of political and economic institutions, are waging war against the rest of their people. That is the meaning of the neo-liberal austerity policies being imposed. The people don't realize what is happening. With the government approving monopolies and granting subsidies there is no free-market, and there is tolerance of your life style as long as you don't wake up and pay attention to something other than lifestyle, for example to the economic war that is being waged upon you. And do you know what really is interesting?
- What?
- The reason we poor deluded souls are being warred upon is because we are not democratic!
- We're in a democracy but we are not democratic?
- That's right. Our efficiently power sharing leaders look down upon us poor deluded souls with our tolerance and idiotic swallowing whole their free market lies. Democracy is the sharing of power between people but we have been rendered impotent: because we tolerate everything we cannot communicate with each other any suggestion of better or worse political action, we can't even communicate the idea it might be better not to be waged war upon by the class of democratic rich who control government and economic institutions.
- And the solution is?
- Obviously we have to become democratic too! I was talking to a geography professor at UCLA about these things. He told me that most wars now were civil wars. As new countries are being created, new wars have started within them. Ethnic and religious groups which were getting along fine dredged up memories of past grievances.
- Even if they had been democracies they, like the EU and the United States, found a basis to define a group as non practicing of democracy and thus the valid target of war.
- Yes. He gave Israel as an example. I told him how the day I'd had a conversation with an book editor and journalist and all around well connected big shot in Israel about his country's carelessness in defending itself against the charge it was occupying the Palestinian Territories, Gaza, and Golan Heights. He said,
- Israel is occupying those lands.
- They were taken in a defensive war.
- The UN passed a resolution in 1967 stating that lands won in war have to be returned.
- Against all previous historical practice.
- The idea is to maintain post World War II borders.
- Except for civil wars? The Chinese and Vietnamese communists took control of and have been allow to retain their whole countries.
- Israel isn't engaged in a civil war.
- Isn't it? It is true that the lands you mentioned were obtained in defensive war. But the people who want them back from Israel wish, openly state, even put it into writing, their demand that Israel totally cease from existing as a state. Both sides living in the same territory want permanent control of all of the same territory. Looks like civil war to me.
- The international community doesn't see it that way. Israel took the lands after invasion, and that is absolutely rejected.
- But you are looking at it wrong. It is true the land was taken in invasion. But then? The international law says 'give it back', but are these people, themselves not remotely democratic, really members of that in principle democratic body of states in which Israel is included if they openly deny the right of Israel to exist? Isn't it ridiculous to apply the law in this case? 
- The argument is that the Palestinians have been defined as outside the democratic community and so become legitimate objects of attack.
- Yes. Israel has no hesitation launching its own economic and social war against its own people, an assault at least as strong as ours and the EUs, but it is determined to not fight with the powers that be. The only way it can do that is to show its power to be a democratic member of that community in good standing, and they do that by refusing to be patronized and by not caring much about defending themselves against the rhetoric of the weak.
- How can we save ourselves? When trade and technology only make wars easier and more common, when though democracies don't wage war against each other they more and more often wage war within themselves?
- As I said: by being determined to become democratic ourselves.
- But how?
- By recovering our power.
___________________
The Frequency Of Wars, Harrison & Wolf, 2011

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zizek At Strabucks

Continued from A Place For Themselves In Other People's Places

- Those late nights at Starbucks I was telling you about: most of the time I spent watching lectures by the Slovenian philosopher Zizek, one after the other. And this afternoon, when I walked into my back-up late-night Starbucks a couple blocks away at the Ralphs supermarket, who do you think I saw sitting there, just where I like to sit watching videos? Zizek himself! I stopped dead in my tracks. He soon became aware of me staring at him. I said:

- I've been watching you the past few days.

- How? I just arrived here.

- On Youtube.

- You know, we East Europeans are sensitive about being watched.

- Are you speaking at UCLA?

- Yes, probably, some problem about time, someone speaking first....

- Here. (I hand him a slip of paper with my web site address.)

- What's this?

- My writing.

- 'LatestWriting.com'. So big. Like no one else's writing counts, only your writing. You must be arrogant.

- I am. Maybe see you later.

- And that's all? Did you go to his lecture?

- I did, but didn't speak with Zizek.

- Why not? You must like him if you dedicated so many hours to him.

- I do. I agree with almost every conclusion he draws. I don't think there is another person in the world I could say that about.

- Then what?

- I'm not sure. Zizek praises the ecstatic experience of falling in love, but he also likes to point out how the ecstasy produced by high art or in religious experience was used by Nazis and wartime Japanese Buddhists to make killing easier. He talks about the "Other", meaning our submission to social instruction in the form of habits we've learned to practice without being aware, and the "others" which are people who seem to be different and hostile to us because they serve another "Other". I'm not sure I've got that right, I find it difficult to even listen to this kind of thing.

- It's from Lacan.

- Yes, I suppose so. Zizek underwent Lacanian pyschoanalysis and is a certified psychoanalyst himself.

- And you don't like the terminology?

- I don't like that he stops there, producing his explanations with these words. I want to know how ecstatic experience can lead to both bad and good results, I want to know why we are conscious of "the other" only when we we feel threatened by it.

- Are you saying you don't know yourself and expect Zizek to answer these questions for you? That doesn't sound like you. Do you know the answers?

- I have some ideas. Ecstatic experience in love leads you to focus complete attention on a single person. Ecstatic experience leading to violence takes you away from your individual choice towards conformity with your group.

- And why are we conscious of other groups only to hate them and unconscious of our conformity to our own?

- Because in one case we are in the midst of constructing a ritual, and in the other we are repeating by habit a completed story that tells us of our secure relation to the world.

- Love is individual, so it can have nothing to do with rituals, which are group actions, either in their formation or repetition?

- That's right.

- Then I understand.

- My problem with Zizek?

- Yes. I am now able to do a Lacanian psychoanalysis of you. Should I?

- Is Zizek my "other"?

- No. But you worry he may think you are his.

- Why would he if we agree on everything?

- You don't agree with terminology you suspect is used ritualistically. And rituals construct "the other".

- Not bad. Congratulations.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Place For Themselves In Other People's Places

Image result for starbucks

(Starbucks Coffee, Westwood Village, Open 24 hours)

- Who was that guy you were talking to? It sounded like you were mentoring him. I do that myself.
- No, just met him. I saw him at Ralphs last night after seeing him here at the cafĂ©, said hello, and he told me about his life.
- What did he say?
- His life was going about looking for a place for himself in other people's places. The first place was a Zen Buddhist monastery, across the street from the aged Filipino woman he was taking care of in Hilo, on the big Island of Hawaii. He hung out for years there at the monastery. Then he had some legal difficulties with the ethnic Hawaiians, and switched to hanging out around the Hilo courthouse, the only place he felt safe from the police. He became an expert in local crime. Then he returned to the mainland and lived, he claims, six months in the San Francisco airport.
- Why?
- He said he was afraid people wanted to hurt him. Then he spent another six months living out of an adminstration building of the University Of California at Berkeley, until he got caught and charged with trespassing. A public interest lawyer he found got him off, and he came down to L.A. He's been hanging out at Malibu, attending the Habad Center there. The rabbi had agreed to help him convert to Judaism and go live in Israel at a Yeshiva. He was copying the entire bible by hand so as to memorize it.
- What did he get angry with you about? Sorry, I didn't mean to eaves-drop...
- I pointed out that he kept talking about Jesus, and about himself as someone chosen by fate to be a significant religious force, and that this didn't look much like Judaism to me, rather it looked like ego mania. He began insulting me and I asked him to leave.
- There's a lot like him around here.
- What about you? What do you do? Are you also a messiah?
- No. I have several projects I'm developing.
- What kind of projects?
- Music, movies, a hedge fund, many things. An entire conglomerate actually. I've put it into lockdown now while I get my life in order.
- While you're hanging around here. Ok. It's really a remarkable crew that passes the nights at this Starbucks. Do you know any of them?
- I keep to myself, do my own things.
- They do too, mostly. In front of me is the computer programmer, in a moment you see him go into his routine of wrist twitching, finger pulling and joint cracking. At the far right corner is an old con artist who acts like he is my friend. He tried to trick me out of 500 dollars when I returned from Europe a couple of years ago.
- How?
- Said he'd give me a job writing a television show. Minimum wage, but a good start to show my talent. But was I a member of the Writer's Guild? He was a member of the Producer's Guild and he could only hire Writers Guild members. No? No problem. He could send his lawyer right now to the Guild and get a temporary membership. Only five hundred dollars. Let's go to the ATM, he said, and get your money.
- You didn't give him the money?
- It was really tempting, even though I knew the whole thing was ridiculous. He'd never read a word I'd written.
- How did he know you?
- He saw me through the window of the cafe and came in, sat down next to me, asked me if I was a writer. So, I told him I didn't have the money, but he could take it back out of my first two weeks salary. He said he couldn't do that, it wasn't professional. I was making a mistake, he warned me, maybe the worst mistake of my life, I'd always regret it. That's the story, he left the cafe to try the trick on other poor hopefuls. But back to the regulars here. Around the corner, in the other room, is the grey bearded man being treated at the University hospital whose medical expenses ruined him. Ahead of you is the black family, mother, father, two teenaged daughters, who work quietly at their table on their individual projects.
- What kind?
- I don't know. At the window is the Russian, or maybe only Russian reading man who spends his days at the UCLA library, nights here, also sometimes in a sleeping bag in a doorway on Westwood Blvd. Three or four women regularly spending their nights in village doorways come in here as well. I'm sure you've seen them. They don't talk to anyone.
- They talk to themselves.
- Yes. There's the guy who never takes off his ear speakers, and is writing a screenplay, seems to live somewhere hidden on the UCLA campus. There's the black guy who sits smoking outside giving everyone provoking hostile looks. Last night a woman sleeping on the street began screaming Help! Someone called the police. This smoking provocateur was throwing garbage at here while she tried to sleep. He didn't even bother to leave. The police came and took both him and the woman away. More people stay here, but enough for now, right?
- I was the one who called the police. Are you going to put me on your list?
- Do you think you belong? What they all have in common is their great similarity to the orthodoxy of our world.
- They're victims of the powerful. The government gives them free food and no place to live so they can scare the rest of us into conformity.
- They do the work of scare crows. And like scare crows resemble real men and woman, so these people on the street resemble those they are meant to scare. What they have in common is their attachment to social role, despite the fact that in their present way of life there is no one along with them up on stage, and in fact, there is no stage either. I'll tell you what I mean. In the last week, there have been two more scandals about UCLA. Scandals are nearly continuous these days. The first was the hospital being fined 250,000 dollars by the state of California for endangering the lives of their patients through negligence. It seems that in one out of every three thousand operations surgeons leave inside the bodies of their patients a sponge or towel or some instrument or other object. That is ten times the state average, with most hospitals reporting no cases at all.
- The surgeons are in a hurry to move on to their next operation.
- That's what the nurses I talked to about it said. The other scandal isn't even reported. At the California Nanoscience Institute there is one out of only two in the world x ray microscopes which can make three dimensional images at the atomic level, can actually see molecules. Though developed by public funding, maybe in the billions of dollars, it is being rented out exclusively to drug companies to do research at the price of 200 dollars an hour.
- About the cost of a cheap car repair.
- Yes. I've told you about these things because I want to make a point: the overnighters here at Starbucks each have their role, they'll tell you about it if you ask. Some are messiahs, others, many others actually, are writers and filmmakers. We think there is something pathetic about this self conception they have because no one else in the world has a role to play with them, to give the writers a job, the messiah a people to save, whatever. And they don't have any regular place they live to perform their roles in. But look at the UCLA surgeons and scientist administrators. Surgeon is supposed to be functioning with patient, scientific administrator with the California public. Instead the surgeons treat their patents like disposable garbage bags and the scientific administrators are no different than the con artist I pointed out to you. The con man doesn't run from me, the man attacking the woman on the street for the fun of it doesn't run from the police, because there is no place they are performing their role in. They don't live anywhere. They can play their solitary role anywhere. But if the people here overnight don't have a stable place to play their roles, neither do the surgeon and administrator. They couldn't be scared so easily if they did by the show of these scare crows wandering the village and campus. Administrators and surgeons know no one is really safe. That's why they go for the money in the first place. The real difference between the people down here at the cafe and those up at the university is possession of property, and property can easily be taken away.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Test Of A Man

Image result for greek democracy
- Listen, can I make what is going to sound like an outrageous claim?
- What would be new about that coming from you?
- The new government in Greece is facing off with the European Union about paying back their debt. The new government was elected on the promise not to pay, the European Union is determined to do everything it can to make Greece pay.
- You're talking about money, finance, budgets. Boring stuff.
- More than money is involved. The Greeks don't want to pay on principle, and the EU wants to make them pay on principle. The Greeks argue that it is wrong to be bound by your promise. The EU believes it is wrong not to be bound by your promise.
- Ok. How is it wrong, according to the Greeks, to be bound by their promise?
- Because we must always do right, and a promise is binding us to future conduct which, sometimes, when the future arrives, we will see is not the right thing to do. When our drunk and insane friend asks us to return the gun he asked us to hold for him when he was sober and sane, we don't perform on our promise, we say it would be wrong to keep our promise.
- And why is it wrong for the Greeks to pay back their debt?
- All kinds of reasons. For example, the debt was incurred by a corrupt, clientelist government, not by the Greek people themselves; or the debt repayment is destroying the economy of the country.
- But they made the deal. The EU also has their interests to be respected. Or no?
- No.
- Why not?
- Because the only reason to be bound by a promise of future action you no longer think is good is to provide a secure environment for future dealings. In the case of the Greeks and the EU, the EU is treating Greece like an enemy, knowingly destroying the everyday life of the Greek people by exacting repayment. If the EU was doing something good, instead of acting drunk and insane, things would be different.
- I'm sure the dour and rational EU bankers would think you were drunk and insane for characterizing them as drunk and insane.
- I suppose they would. If the Greeks are arguing that it is wrong by be bound by principle when it happens that is clearly something bad to do, the EU is acting on the opposite presumption, that there is literally nothing more important than continuing to bind future conduct by past principle.
- So your outrageous claim is that the Greeks, the inventors of democracy, argue good takes precedence over promise, and the EU bankers, beneficiaries to ideas of democracy the Greeks invented, face off each other in some sort of apocalyptic philosophical battle. Do I have you right?
- You do.
- Then what, if a philosophic war is being enacted before our eyes, is the reasoning of the bankers, what is their response to the argument for not repaying? Have I missed something? I don't believe I've heard anything from the bankers other than, "Do it because you must, you naughty, naughty children, you who don't respect the authority of a promise". And for that matter, I don't think I have heard the Greeks express anything of the kind you are telling me now. They talk about a power struggle in which the EU deliberately gets poor countries into debt, forces austerity measures including privatizations which allows the bankers to acquire their valuable property cheap.
- Nevertheless, a philosophic battle is underway.
- But how can you say that?
- This morning I was at the University Research Library, up on the 5th floor walking through the stacks. The first book that caught my notice was the complete poems of Emily Dickenson. I flipped through the pages, read a few poems. Down the same aisle, the second book I pulled out was The Test Of A Man*, a fifteenth century book of Indian philosophy.
- Never heard of it.
- Me either. That is my point.
- What is your point?
- That the ideas behind this epic battle are in the air.
- The much polluted, over-breathed air that the whole world has inherited from the long gone Greek democracy.
- Yes. In the chapter of The Test Of A Man entitled "In The Tale Of The Millionaire Magnanimous" a rich man observes himself and his wealth, and comes to the following conclusions. It is not his unique character, his fate, or his good fortune that made him rich, but rather his having many "skillful and obedient servants" who had to be continually managed. A moment's idleness, and his wealth could vanish. Real wealth, he argues, is not the material acquisitions themselves, but the ability to earn. But because the minute that ability to earn is not exercised the possibility of loss of wealth is threatened, he feels anxious for his wealth even though he has known for a long time he has much more wealth than he can use.
- Wealth brings with it an anxiety to be always acquiring more wealth.
- Precisely.
- And that was written in 15th century India. Fantastic!
- If you want the philosophic history on the other side of the argument, that a promise has no moral standing, William Godwin at the end of the 18th century in England produced just the book for you, more than a thousand pages of closely reasoned exposition, An Inquiry Into Political Justice.
- And if I walked through the stacks at the research library Research Library I'd find it too?
- You would. Godwin was the father of Mary Shelly, the author of Frankenstein and wife of the poet Shelly, a professed admirer of his father in law's ideas.
- Ok. On the surface, the EU bankers are saying to the Greeks, you bad boys, you know the rules, you promised and now you have to pay up. The Greeks are saying to the EU bankers, No, You! You are the rule breakers, tricking us and the other poor countries of Europe into entering into economic relations which you knew would destroy us, pretending all the while you care about us, were actually concerned with our education and worried we were being spoiled by the temporary prosperity that arrived with you deigning to let us join your club. But behind the scenes of the these words Greek and EU politicians throw at each other in public, according to you the reality is the Greek bankers feel an anxiety to go on acquiring useless wealth, as expressed in 15th century India of all places, and the Greeks refuse to be bound by any economic or political principle at all, in fact will be bound by nothing but the wish to form a society that would be good. Is that right?
- Exactly right.
- Right that it is a good principle to follow, or that the Greeks are in fact following it?
- Think about what happened two months ago in Greece in the election that brought the new government into power. For democracy to function power has to be in the hands of the people. People have power in a democracy when they are capable of exercising power. That means when they are capable of making political decisions. If we look at our country, the United States, we can say unequivocally Americans are presently so indoctrinated and ignorant they don't have that power. But two months ago the Greek people, a majority of them, displayed a basic understanding of the things we've been talking about: not being bound by promise, and their tormentor's anxiety to gain more and more wealth.
- Are you claiming the majority of Greek voters actually have that understanding?
- Maybe not to put into words, into the philosopher's words.
- What words then?
- The party in power promises to restore Dignity to the people and to defy the Greed of their opponents.
- They promise.
_____________________
* The Test Of A Man, Being The Purusha-Pariksha Of Vidyapati Thakkura

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Infinite Is Bigger Than Yours

1.

On Two New Sciences, Galileo,1638:

Salviati: These difficulties arise because we with our finite mind discuss the infinite, attributing to the latter properties derived from the finite and limited. This, however, is not justifiable; for the attributes great, small, and equal are not applicable to the infinite, since one cannot speak of greater, smaller, or equal infinities. An example occurs to me which I shall refer to your consideration, Signor Simplicio, since it was you who started the discussion. I take it for granted that you know which numbers are squares and which are not.

Simplicio: Aware of the fact that a square number arises through the multiplication of any number by itself; for example,4 and 9 are square numbers formed from 2 and 3.




Salviati: Excellent. You remember also that just as the products are called squares, the factors, that is, the numbers which are multiplied by themselves, are called sides or roots. The remaining numbers, which are not formed from two equal factors, are called non-squares. If then I state that all numbers, squares and non-squares taken together, are more numerous than the squares taken alone, that is an obviously correct proposition, is it not?

Simplicio: It cannot be denied.

Salviati: If now I ask you that how many square are there, one can answer with truth, just as many as there are roots; for every square has a root, every root has a square, no square has more than one root, no root more than one square.

Simplicio: Entirely correct.

Salviati: Again, if I ask how many roots are there, one cannot deny that they are just as numerous as the complete number series, for there is no number which is not the root of some square. Admitting this, it follows that there are just as many squares as there are roots, since they are as numerous as the roots and every number is a root. Yet we said at the outset that all numbers are more numerous than all squares, since the majority of the former are non-squares. Indeed, the more numbers we take, the smaller is the proportion of squares ; for up to 100 there are 10 squares, that is, one tenth are squares ; up to 10000, one hundredth; up to 1000000, only one thousandth. Still up to an infinitely large number, granting we can conceive it, we were compelled to admit that there are just as many squares as numbers.

Simplicio: What is to be our conclusion?

Salviati: I see no escape expect to say: the totality of numbers is infinite, the totality of squares is infinite, the totality of roots is infinite; the multitude of squares is not less than the multitude of numbers, neither is the latter the greater; and finally, the attributes equal, greater and less are not applicable to infinite, but solely to finite quantities.


2.

- Your turn.
- I don't know. I'm expected to outdo Galileo?
- Yes. What do you have to say?
- The infinite is an idea, but not an idea about the world.
- What else can it be about?
- About both us and the world, about something we do in the world.
- What?
- Operate a machine of thinking. We take what we have and add one. Then take that and add one. We instruct ourselves to continue doing this. The infinite is a sort of recipe for action,
- A program.
- Yes. We can follow a recipe to construct an infinite series of odd numbers, like we can for all numbers. We imagine that the odd infinite must be smaller than the all number infinite because the all number series also includes the even numbers which also are infinite. Imagine we count at the rate of one unit per second.
- We operate the mental machine once per second.
- Yes. We don't see a larger or smaller infinite. We don't see a thing, "the infinite" at all. Ideas are collected experiences we see all together when we stop acting and rest. Infinites, continual action by recipe, cannot be ideas, cannot be seen.
- Then what are we doing when we talk about larger and smaller infinites?
- We imagine that the counting in our mind is shown in a movement in space. Each time we count one more we move a little forward. It looks like the set of all numbers is moving forward more than the set of odd or even numbers. When we get to 2 for all numbers, we have taken two steps, but for the even or odd numbers, only the first.
- We seem to be packing more movement and distance covered in the same infinite counting?
- Yes. Counting odd numbers and even numbers and squares is slower, covers less distances.
- So when we talk about bigger and smaller infinites we are really comparing speed of constructing infinite series.
- Right. Now this has some rather amazing implications for social life.
- Here we go.
- Social roles both provide security and are alienating. They provide security by giving us a sense of power, the power to do repeatedly what is done in our particular role. Social role is a kind of infinite. We imagine how we could "operate" our role on whatever the world throws at us, always adding one more instance of successful performance. On the other hand, social roles are alienating. We imagine that if we had no particular role at all, were instead all roles, we'd be like the set of all numbers not only odd, even, or squares, we'd be "larger infinities", we'd get further quicker, we'd cover more ground in life.
- This reminds me of the paradox, Zeno's arrow. In one second it will hit the target. In half a second it is half way there, in a quarter second more it gets closer, in an eighth of a second more, closer still, in a sixteenth of second more, closer still. We can operate this machine of adding ever smaller periods of time, and the arrow seems to never get to the target. Are you saying something similar?
- When we first choose a social role, we are like the arrow traveled half way.
- I see that. Like odds or evens or squares.
- Imagine then we take on further specificity of social role. Asian, female, Christian, homosexual student life, for example, the subject of a movie I saw today. Each new role seems to be adding to life, but halves the ground covered, like odd numbers are half of whole numbers. The more specific the roles we take on, the smaller our infinite, and that makes us feel alienated. Our power is increasing but life is shrinking.
- Like the arrow, really we're getting nowhere.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Something To Look Forward To

- But you can't go on talking and thinking about these things. It's interesting, but only a hobby. You have to take care of yourself. If you don't, no one else will. You'll be in real trouble if you don't watch out. Make a list of what you should do.
- I can't think of a single item. Can you?
- No. But there must be something. You have to have hope.
- I do. There's this theory I've been reading about. As communications that once were controlled by monopolies at high profits are now produced and consumed directly by people at no cost on the Internet, so energy and transport will go the same way. Everyone will have solar panels on their rooftops and everyone will share transport rather than own a car. The production of the tools of communication and energy production and transportation are getting cheaper and cheaper through automation, approaching the point where the tools can manufacture themselves and repair themselves. Only the raw materials the tools are made from need be provided, but they can be recycled. Sounds good, right?
- Do you believe it's really possible?
- Yes. The guy who's come up with this is as we speak working with the EU directly to implement his ideas and they are being implemented. Twenty-five percent of Germany's electricity is now provided by the consumers themselves. The large energy companies are on their way out of business. China's leader, after reading the book in which these ideas are laid out, started implementing them on a massive scale. The United Nations is implementing them in Africa. Many other countries are beginning to. The main holdouts in this process are U.S. and Canada.
- Why?
- The theorist...
- What's his name?
- Jeremy Rifkin. In the subtitle of his new book is the phrase, "The Eclipse Of Capitalism".
- Then why are capitalist governments working with him?
- That's the interesting question, isn't it? Rifkin says there are great problems ahead, global warming, exhausting of oil resources and increasing costs of extraction, and so far only he has shown up with a solution.
- Do you believe that?
- I do. The head of Germany he works so closely with is the same woman who is forcing austerity measures of the poor countries of the EU, when the EUs own advisers have put it into their official report on those policies that it is certain that they cause further impoverishment and decline of economic stability. She is the epitome of capitalism.
- Then what is she doing supporting "The Eclipse Of Capitalism"?
- Well, she isn't. Was the undermining of the music and publishing industries by the free, sharing, "horizontal" organization of Internet the destruction of capitalism?
- What do you think?
- It destroyed certain industries but replaced them with others, new vast monopolies: Google, Twitter, Facebook. Monopoly is the high point of capitalist achievement. It is the win.
- So you think the EU, Germany, the UN are looking ahead to the prospect of new mega-monopolies? They'll be able to absorb all the profit released by the people freely trading with each other transportation, energy, communication that are produced at little or no cost?
- Yes. The United States and Canada are not participating because it is against the interest of their oil companies, the largest in the world.
- What about China?
- A large producer, but also the largest importer of fossil fuels.
- So not the end of capitalism, but a battle between two kinds of capitalist monopolies is beginning. Will people really be better off?
- Isn't it amazing that you can even ask that question?
- Why?
- Free communication through the Internet, free energy from the sun, nearly free robot manufactured and managed transportation, and we have to ask, will this make life better?
- Food is not free, water is not free, shelter is not free. Google, Facebook, Twitter sell advertisements for these things and others that are not free.
- You think that all the savings will go to the monopolies and everyday life will not get better?
- Do you think the Internet has made everyday life better? Do people work less? Are their lives more pleasant? Has it made people cooperate more or less?
- You mean, cooperate outside of sharing information, in their personal lives?
- Yes.
- The guy we're talking about seems to think so. Young people work for social capital, not material, he says. But what is social capital?
- What?
- Gratitude and obligation. Reputation and reward. The more you give, the more you are entitled to receive. A trade. A deal. An investment.
- A kind of capitalism.
- Exactly. When you really care about the people around you, you get to know them and like working with and helping them. Your reward is in the act itself.
- And the Internet, sharing economy doesn't work that way.
- On the Internet no one really knows anyone or cares about anyone. We've talked about the lack of real compassion in the lives of the those who've grown up with the new sharing economies.* Everyone is in a game to create reputation, where the big winners become the go-to place, a content monopoly in the sharing economy.
- They do give away their time and energy and things. That's real too.
- The fact is everyone on the Internet is an artist, not just the writers and musicians and filmmakers who give away their work. Everyone there shares pictures, descriptions, representations of life. But art is not life.
- What is life then?
- Art is like a sentence waiting for a reply. When your friend replies, and you two together put what you newly agree on into practice, when you change, improve how you live together, that is life. Change, not exchange. Fundamental change.
- And that doesn't happen with the Internet?
- The opposite happens. Political passivity. Less ability to live together creatively. All creativity has gone into art of communication, with the big pay off of becoming a "content" monopoly. We can share our energy, our solar power, share our cars and old things with each other, but we will be paying for all this just as we pay for the Internet by a daily life that gets harder day by day.
- Now we have jobs, working for the people who own the monopolies behind the Internet. What will we be doing if machines can do almost all the work?
- Rifkin, the theorist, working with Germany, the EU, China, and the UN, says that for a couple of generations people will be working on building the new energy and transportation infrastructure. Once it is done, however, the situation will be really, really interesting.
- How so?
- The monopolies of the communication sharing we have now are paid by users buying the products of advertisers who primarily are the other monopolies of energy, transportation, food, shelter, the cost of the advertising built into the prices paid. People will have "free" communication, energy, transportation, but they will still have to pay for food and housing, still under monopoly control. How will they do it if there is no more work for them?
- Can food and shelter be produced on the same system as the Internet, energy, transportation?
- They can.
- How?
- Making them free, of course.
- For anyone to take who wants.
- Like the Internet.
- That would require there was enough food and shelter for everyone.
- There is. Right now.
- If everyone didn't take more food and shelter than he could use.
- Yes. See any chance of that happening?
- Actually, yes. If people get used to sharing ideas, art, communication, energy, transportation, why not?
- In one sense, I agree. People are getting less attached to property. But here's the problem. The sharing economies, communication, energy and transportation, are being constructed by the old system of capitalism and monopoly. Capitalism and monopoly are not being "eclipsed" by the process, rather they are being strengthened. How could the last piece be put in place, the sharing of food and shelter?
- What's the problem?
- The problem is how the owner of the monopoly infrastructure will get paid. Communications monopolies, Google, Facebook, Twitter, get paid by energy, transportation, food, shelter sales, the energy and transportation infrastructure monopolies get paid by the work building the infrastructure. But once food and shelter are free, how is the provider of the infrastructure to be paid, when there is literally nothing more to be bought from outside the sharing economies?
- Then you think it will never happen, this last addition to sharing? Which, correct me if I am wrong, requires no new technology at all to be implemented? Could be done right now?
- You're not wrong. With free communications, free energy, free transportation, people still will be slaves to the monopolies holding control of food and water and shelter.
- But what will they do? When everything is made virtually for nothing?
- What they do now. Produce more and more elaborate luxury food and housing for the wealthy.
- Isn't there a limit how much luxury can be produced?
- The people will be put to use researching how to get past the limits. But maybe we'll never get to this point. The U.S., with its antiquated oil based technology, monopoly transportation, but immense military, suffering competitive decline may intervene to take by force the profits of the more advanced in energy and transportation.
- In which case the rest the world will have jobs as slaves to us in America. They'll producing luxuries for us.
- Something to look forward to.
__________________
Compassion & The Story

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Right To Property

1. The owner of factory insists on his freedom to use his property as he wishes.
2. He does not want to share his property with those who have none, with those, for example, who work for him, and so must choose to sell themselves for wages if they are not to die.
3. He is not responsible, he says, for the conditions of the world he was born into.
4. Freedom, unlike justice, for him is not universal. Justice is for all.
5. The reason for this:
6. Property is the exclusive use of some thing.
7. And freedom has been defined as exclusive use of property.
8. Freedom is then, by definition, to maintain exclusive use of things.
9. Another definition of freedom: to live without threat of violence.
10. This kind of freedom is held as universally applicable to all.
11. The factory owner insists that his definition of freedom, non-universal, based on violence, be placed ahead of the universal principle of non-violence.
12. Simply because that is the world he was born into.
13. Freedom to use property, to the benefit only a few, is a principle applicable only by force, or by a habit of obedience established by repeated use of force.
14. No one without property, capable of choice, would prefer the non-universal principle based on violence, to the universal principle of freedom from violence.
15. Moral principles are the product of thought about life, of better and worse ways of living.
16. The right to property is not a moral principle.

see Property Is Silence

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Property, Greed, And The Bible

I. PROPERTY



1.

- You think things are bad? Yesterday Los Angeles' District Attorney explained that the police are arresting and jailing sixty mentally unstable people a day, fifteen thousand a year, on the basis of a suspicion they might possibly become violent and break a law. If they complain, as they do, that they didn't do anything, and resist arrest, that is a crime and their stay in jail will then be even longer than the not unusual six months for those jailed for the possibility they will commit a crime. The District Attorney said this obviously was a bad situation.
- Did she say what should be done?
- Present politics made action difficult, as she said we all were aware, but she was in the process of setting up a commission of law enforcement and mental health professionals and community representatives to study the problem and work towards a solution.
- Talk and do nothing, then fall silent and do nothing when attention is distracted by new problems. The old trick. What do you think should be done?
- As the D.A. said, politics does not work any more, at least doesn't work for good.
- What does it work for?
- Property. The more property, the more influence.
- Then we have to change that, but like everyone else I talk to I don't see how. How did we get into this position?
- Our way of thinking about property has painted ourselves into a corner of speechlessness. We can't say politicians are bad to work against the interest of the public they are supposed to serve. Property does not have good or bad, except in the basic sense of it being bad to take away someone's property by force. We can't explain why inequality of wealth is bad. All we can do is express is our wonder that it is the fact, that people with the political power of democratic institutions to prevent such a situation from arising or continuing are unable to exercise that power.
- But why are they unable?
- Because they are unable to tell each other that other things in life are more important than property. We cooperate only to maintain the institutions of police that protect against any fundamental change in property relations. We justify our cooperation at work and in private life in the same way, as means to the end of acquiring and holding onto more property. Our institutions function to serve property and only property. We can't complain about politicians not working for us. They are protecting their property. We can't say that is wrong. We feel certain more property ought to come our way, but can't say why. We feel certain we ought to have the power to get more property, but don't understand why apparently we don't.
- We can't say more property coming our way is better, only that it is better for us, and there are more of us. We can threaten violent rebellion.
- As people are doing, or at least beginning to hint at. If you can't explain the problem there is no alternative to violence.
- So how do we explain the problem?
- Cooperation can serve property, or property serve cooperation. We have a choice.
- How would property serve cooperation?
- By providing basic independence of a kind that allows creative cooperation. Property allows for the physical and mental independence necessary in turn for political cooperation. Individual property, become the basis of our cooperation where now it is an unacknowledged product of cooperation, could be even more fundamental than at present. As human beings we are shocked to hear our institutions in a single city are jailing fifteen thousand of the most vulnerable of us because they might one day become violent, but so long as we cooperate only to protect property we must accept this outcome. We see each other as means to the end of acquiring property. We don't listen to each other, except on the subject of how we can cooperate better to get more property. In a sense, we only listen to property. We say our property "expresses" our relation to other people, our power among them. At least we do in societies where cooperation is directed exclusively in support of our property. When property is made the support of cooperation, however, what do we call that?
- What?
- Tell me what you think: When something we have is made to be seen and mean something to others, don't we give it name art? Don't we call it art when we tell a story, make a picture, build a temple, express a model of cooperation? Can't we then talk with each other about different political arrangements, different arts of politics that could determine the outcome, the art as it were, we individually create out of our property?
- Each contributing their own vision and art? You ask too much of everyday men and women.
- We're looking for the open door, the way out of the political impasse. When we cooperate only to protect property we can't challenge the failed institutions that are the result. When we understand that the institutions are the result of one way of involving property in our lives, and that there is another, we might be able to make a change.


2.

- Old stories, old books, hide buried treasure, treasure buried under layers of substituting stories. I think if we look we can easily find a story to illustrate what we've been talking about.
- Which story is that?
- In the Hebrew bible, Genesis: the so-called "Binding Of Isaac".
- God tells Abraham to get his son Isaac ready for sacrifice. With knife in his hand Abraham is stopped by god's angel, who tells him in god's name he was being tested; seeing a goat pass by, Abraham then sacrifices the goat in place of his son. One of the most famous stories in the world. Usually thought to mean that we should have faith in god no matter what happens and all will turn out for the best. You have another idea, of course. Tell me.
- We said cooperation between people in our present lives is limited to protecting property, in the present distribution, and that the alternative was property used creatively to establish new forms of cooperation. New forms of cooperation always change existing property distributions. If we don't want slavery, people treated as property, or don't want property to be hoarded unused, we are a threat to present property distribution, we are a threat to supporters of community for the sake of property. With me?
- Yes. If we think community is something more than protection of property we are a threat to those who think that's all community is.
- In the Hebrew bible, the Jews are chosen by god as a people who are going to be given the new rules. The old rules were cooperation for the sake of protecting property, the new rules are property for the sake of cooperation. Practicing the new rules among people used to practicing the old rules is dangerous.
- People will try to stop you.
- You might have to risk what is most important to you, a father might have to sacrifice his son.
- Abraham gets himself ready to sacrifice Isaac.
- Yes. And then what happens? He is let off at the last minute, and he goes ahead and makes a sacrifice of a passing goat, a trivial sacrifice.
- Which is individual's sacrifice of property for the sake of cooperation.
- The individual has to risk everything to make the attempt, but if he gets away with it, gives up only what is unimportant, a passing goat, to make what is important, a good community.

Further Reading:
Prostitution, Employment, Slavery
Hilaire Belloc's "The Servile State"


II. GREED



1.

Sexual experience can be everything, while it lasts. Being at home with someone also can be everything. Home is a place you go back to, but sexual experience is something done, not a place where things are done. Many different kinds of things can be done at home, but sexuality is always only one kind of thing, a thing of the body. Sexuality fits completely into life at home, but a home is not to be found in sexuality. Without a home, the everything of the experience doesn't last.

Now sexuality can have another kind of a home. Not a private home, the place of love, where the everything of love is there to replenish sexuality, but a public home, the lived in sum total of all social relations in the world, where sexuality is kept alive not by love, but by being associated with first one role, then another, then another...

Sexuality is one kind of desire: desire for bodies. We also have desire for things. The desire can be normal, for things to be used in, to find their place at the home, or can be for things found in public life. This abnormal desire for things, wanting more than fits complete in private life, we call greed.

Greed, like abnormal sexuality, is desire for what is a product of public life: social role, or things associated with social role. Desire becomes public when it cannot find its place in private life. Greed, like abnormal sexuality, doesn't express an individual's character, rather it expresses the opposite, that an individual has lost his character to public life.

Economic and social theories that assume desire pervades public life, once put into practice, produce what they assume; the market economy, invading private life, produces the behavior of unlimited desire the theory depends on.

Market economics does not, as sometimes claimed, produce a natural, beneficent order out of the inherent vice of greed, but first produces greed then institutionalizes it, like pornography produces out of an infinite number of combinations of social roles the unbounded desire that is satisfied by prostitution.


2.

- Well?
- Confusing. I like it better when we talk.
- I'll read you something more, and then we'll talk.
- Ok.
- Both speakers are economists, the first, Friedman, the second Stigler:
- I'm a teacher, and believe people do some things because they are ignorant.
- And I am a scientist, an economics scientist, and believe people do what they do because they are wise.
- We both admire markets but you think they've already worked.
- And why not? People are self interested. They vote their pocket books.That's enough to make markets work. People bought the tariffs. Tariffs must be what they want.
- Friedman the proponent of the Free Market. Stigler, Nobel prize winner for his economics of information? Is this real or did you make it up?
- Real. Those are the guys. Friedman thinks tariffs reduce market efficiency. Stigler doesn't want to know, he won't interfere with a good thing. For him the market is smarter than any of us. Paraphrasing Dr Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide, he says the market is the best of all possible worlds. Everyone gets to choose what he wants.
- Didn't they know we might want to choose other things than economic things? Personal things not consistent with economic?
- Like what?
- Like not perverting my desire in greed and abnormal sexuality! When did the conversation take place?
- In the 60s. To answer you other question, No, they didn't know. Economic life for them had absorbed the elements of personal life so that satisfying economic demands was satisfying personal demands.
- But only those sort of personal demands that fit into economic life, greed and abnormal sexuality.
- The fit between greed and market economics is perfect. With each new conquest attention moves on to the next person or product; once the glory of the seduction or social status given by the object is obtained the object itself is neglected. This indifference to the person or thing consumed is exactly expressed in the market exchange, where the buyer wants the lowest price and the seller the highest. They deal with each other as enemies, complete the transaction, move on their way to the next exchange.
- That's what you mean by saying the market to its proponents includes the personal? This similarity in form between economic and sexual transactions?
- Yes.
- How did we end up with the free market when even its masters are willing to admit that what they mean by efficiency is an economy running like a fine machine, not one necessarily providing efficiently most good things of life to most people?
- We became greedy and this economic system is made to order for the greedy.
- What made us greedy?
- We forgot how to love.


III. ABEL IS MORE ABLE



- It's quiet tonight. Am I right that something is happening? Some big change?
- What do you mean?
- Is the city finally going to take the Citadel back from the family? What really happened with the last family that had the place? What did they do? Really do?
- Sold drugs, ran prostitutes.
- And the boss was murdered, you told me.
- In the disco.
- What does the present "family" do?
- It's in the energy business.
- And you say they "control" the territory of the Citadel without a contract with the government, the city, which owns the land and buildings?
- Yes. Just like the other family.
- How?
- Can't explain.
- Influence? Bribery?
- Can't explain.
- This "family" holds the territory, operates their "energy business" from here. But no one from the energy business world seems to be around.
- That's correct.
- I am the only guest of the hotel.
- Usually.
- There was a taxi business when I first came here, a long time ago.
- The city shut them down.
- Why?
- Can't explain.
- Influence failed?
- My boss always fails.
- But they are still here, in control of the Citadel.
- They built a terrace in the courtyard - you can see it over there, the wood floorboards are rotting away - but the city forbid them to use it.
- Why?
- They say diplomats from nearby embassies complained about noise.
- Failure of influence again. And the new radio station here? What's that for?
- It costs them a lot. They have no advertising and 16 employees.
- And can't get a permit from the city. I've been following the drama. The police come, demand you stop broadcasting, you go off the air, then go on again immediately after the police leave. Then again. Then again. Then the police come, break down the door of the equipment room and carry out the transmitter in their arms. Then you set up broadcasting outside the city limits, still without a permit. Anything I left out?
- No. Sometimes I think this place is an insane asylum.
- Because all you guys here smoke and cough and smoke and cough, because one of you complains operatically non-stop and the other swears non-stop, because you yourself say you can't stop talking with people you don't like? Because the computer programmer in the corner room smokes so much that when he comes out into the lobby he leaves a scent trail in the air, who's a kind of walking ashtray? What about me? How do I fit in?
- You're crazy too.
- To be staying here.
- Yes. No one understands you. I try to protect you, tell everyone you're from a rich family, are here until the estate is settled.
- Sounds good
- I thought so.
- Might even have a little truth to it. Did I ever tell you the story of the fake and real Rolex I bought at a pawn shop in Atlantic City when I was visiting my mother there?
- I don't remember.
- The story goes like this. Dozens of casinos send send their losers out into the street where dozens of pawn shops buy their jewelry so they can go back to the casinos and lose more money. One afternoon I thought to visit the shops and look at their watches. At the first I came to there was a Rolex copy in the window. The Russian immigrant working there placed it on the counter and opened its back to show me the movement. He'd been tricked into buying this watch, he explained. The movement looked real, he'd never seen a fake movement before. How much did he want for the watch? 200 dollars. Take 150? Yes.
- You bought the watch?
- Yes. When I came next time to Budapest I sold it to another watch dealer for 600 dollars.
- How?
- The movement was real.
- And you knew it.
- And the pawn shop didn't. Real movement in fake watch.
- Great story.
- It is what I like to think life is like at the Citadel. We've got the "family" parading around, visiting the radio station that isn't a business, the hotel where I am usually the only guest, you guys working here smoking yourselves to death out of nothing else to do, I'm here seeing this because I make it look like a hotel and in my isolated life other people don't hear about it from me and show up asking to stay. It's all fake, but it is a real castle, it is the best place in Budapest, you and me are really here despite the fakery going on around us.
- Very poetic. Everyone is miserable here.
- Last night I was writing about Cain and Abel.
- From the Bible?
- Yes. Should I tell you what I wrote?
- How long will it take?
- One minute. Two, maximum.
- Ok.
- I'll be fast, fast. Here goes. Pay attention.
- Ha.
- The first humans were educated by God: they broke his rules, went adventuring, had children, created lives for themselves. The first human educated by humans killed his brother.
- Cain killed Abel.
- Yes. God's education was in breaking rules. Human education is about keeping rules. Cain was a farmer. He stayed put. He followed rules of when and what and where to plant. When he looked at the land he was reminded of which of his rules to apply.

When God did not accept his sacrifice Cain responded to God as he responded when a rule no longer applied because of change of weather: he simplified, uprooted the unrewarding rule from his world. There was a rule, "Sacrifice to God / You'll be rewarded by his love" yet it was applied to his brother, not to him, to him no love was delivered. But if killed his brother whose sacrifice has been accepted the field would be cleared of all sacrifice, nothing of the kind grow there. Cain weeded Abel from his field.

As a shepherd Abel adapted rules to the terrain his herd wandered over. The land did not remind him of any set rule. Rules remained contingent. The story of Cain and Abel is about a battle between two ways of of applying rules, destructive and creative.
- You've written this down?
- Sure, not that anyone reads anything.
- Doesn't matter.
- Yes, that's the point I want to make. Write the truth in the midst of all the fakery, you're Abel living in Cain's world. You are the only guest of the "family" hotel at the Citadel. Down in the city when I tell people about where I stay I use the Italian word for family, "mafia". I hope they don't mind.
- Nobody is interested in you.
- I'm real taken as fake, safe so long as no one sees the reality and tries to profit by it.
- What good are you to anyone?
- Well, what good was it to Cain killing his brother? It was a symbolic act. And as we see at the Citadel the whole place is functioning as a symbol of the family's power, doing nothing else in fact. I am here only so long as there is no symbolic benefit in throwing me out. I am waiting for that time to come. It will, won't it?
- Yes. You know this place.
- 17 years since the first time I stayed here.
- Time have changed.
- The world is at war, economic, social war. Cain is out to eradicate Abel, out to weed him from his field. But, you know, history has moved on. Abel is more able.
- Abel is more able. I like that.
- Abel knows better, he can put into words just how the world is a war between those educated by man and those educated by god. He knows all the words thrown about around him are fakery, are all lies, gangsters' symbols of power. Education by man begins with killing a man, but proclaims itself to be education by god. It all about following rules and goes by the name of fundamentalism.

But education by God is something small and on the human scale, is the rule breaking and wandering life and goes by the name "humanism". God made humans, but humans make each other something else, something much worse, something fake, something oversimplified, something "fundamental".
- It's been much more than one minute.
- My words wandered to a field where other rules apply.

Further Reading:
Eve In The Garden Of Eden