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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

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 and least bad?
- We became greedy and this economic system is made to order for the greedy.
- What made us greedy?
- We forgot how to love.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Craigslist Messiah

Craigslist Ad: "Room For Rent, $125 Per Week Plus 20 Hours Construction Work"

- Who's that blond that just left?
- Her office is upstairs. She publishes a fitness magazine.
- I haven't been to this Starbucks in years. What do they do with their old food?
- Pack it into trash bags they dump in the containers outside.
- Let's wait and see.
- So you can go through the garbage?
- I once got enough to live on for three days.
- You look like you don't make a habit of eating with that unkept Indian spiritualist beard of yours. What's with the beard anyway?
- Don't knock it. I was on the cover of a magazine.
- Why did they want you?
- I look like Jesus. Everyone got make-up but me. They told me I was perfect.
- The image of spirituality.
- I'm a very spiritual man. Well, do you accept the deal? Room for a week for 125 dollars, and 20 hours work, painting and the like. I warn you I'm a slave driver.
- What sort of room is it?
- You might not have a room. You won't. You can sleep on the floor, right? You sleep in the dining room. Do you have Facebook and picture ID?
- Why?
- I want to register with AirB&B in your name.
- Why?
- It's too complicated to explain. It is a requirement if you want to stay at my house.
- Who else is staying there?
- No one at the moment. There's a couple of guys, they're crazy. Everyone who answers the ad is crazy. A guy who sleeps with his bulldog, wise guy. And a black drug dealer who told me how he traded drugs for his last room but the landlord took the drugs and went after him with a machete. He wants me to sign a contract so I don't cheat him. I think I'll put the contract in your name.
- Why?
- Don't ask questions. I want you to be out of the house all day. Come at midnight, leave in the morning. You don't have anything you have to leave, right?
- No. For one month you want me to pay $500 rent and work 80 hours, that's $700 at minimum wage, total 1300 dollars to sleep on the dining room floor, be gone all day, have your business in my name and sign a rental contract with a drug dealer.
- It could be worse.

Friday, February 13, 2015

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.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Prostitution & Torture

1.

- Anti-sex trafficking organizations say prostitution is torture. What do you think?
- Obviously they are not identical. We might look at how they are the same and how they are different.
- How are they the same?
- Both the seller of sex and the tortured have force applied to their bodies.
- You mean forced sex? Don't sellers agree to trade sex for money?
- Assuming they feel no desire to be with those they have to be paid to be with, their bodies are being forced to act against desire.
- How is acting against desire torture?
- Buying sex like torture works to disable normal functioning of the bought or bound subject's body.
- Torture and buying sex are both about disabling the subject's body. How else are torture and buying sex similar?
- Both aim to force particular thoughts into the minds of their bound or bought subjects, or to imagine this happening. The torturer wants a confession, the sex buyer wants the bought to pretend to like the buyer.
- So we have two elements: disabling the body's functioning, and forcing into existence shows of certain thoughts. We know people torture for reasons other than gaining information, that in most cases torture is not done to achieve practical results. Do you think people buy sex also for no practical reason? That it is not about sex?
- I think it is about what we've said: sex buying constructs a social relation in which the body of the bought is disabled and the seller imagines he is desired by someone whose body is socially considered desirable.
- A matter of power and status.
- Yes.
- Ok. How are sex buying and torture different?
- Instead of being physically bound, the sex seller is subject to severe economic and social pressure. Because selling sex disables the body and necessitates lying no one voluntarily chooses to sell sex.
- Then why do some say they enjoy what they do?
- The same reason slaves say they accept slavery: they find security in the only way of life they know that provides some predictability. We've talked before* about how feeling at home comes from habit, and habit comes from the body. We want to be at home because that is the place where we know from experience we are safe and can move on to get what else we want. The tortured and bought body cannot easily feel anywhere at home. We also talked** about how in our societies we do things for the sake of doing them: another way of saying, we are a society of people without home. We are a people without home because we force each other to do what the bound for torture and bought for sex are forced to do: against our bodies, under threat of economic and social death to produce representations of our liking of each other, to constantly adjust our relations to each other.
-  Your point being that violence and sex are extremes of relation between bodies, but in our everyday life where our bodies keep more distance we see the same relations we see in torture and prostitution.
- Yes, but because of the physical distance maintained the effects much weakened. Torture is still torture.
- And prostitution is still torture.
____________________
Prostitution, Employment, Slavery
** Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, Doing For The Sake Of Doing

2.

- Have you thought about why we like to cause others pain for the sake of an imaginary social relation? Is it that we've come to the conclusion that the social forms we want are so unnatural we have to cause pain to construct them?
- I think something opposite: a kind of natural process is involved here, one that we have talked much about.
- Ritual.
- Yes. Ritual involves an old weak god dying and reborn into a new strong god. Enacting ritual we are a weak old god in pain, yet imagine the reborn strong god we will become.
- We are both in pain and act out an imagined social relation, like the victim of torture, or those bought for sex.
- Yes. The torturer and buyer of sex set the ritual going. By the end of the ritual pain has turned into pleasure of security and the imagined social world is accepted as real.
- The torturer and buyer of sex imagine they are initiating a ritual, and look ahead to their victims willingly accepting beliefs they at the beginning only pretended to. On the strength of this projection, torturers and buyers of sex believe their victims like or respect them.
- They imagine they are transforming their victims into versions of themselves, god-like confident in their ability to force an imagined world into existence, that they are forming a community with their victims through ritual.
- Even though sellers of sex or tortured slaves rarely reach the point of feeling secure in the regularities of their subjection?
- Merely setting the ritual going is enough. That's just how it is. Ritual is action taken among other people meant to change the mind of the individual. It doesn't do anything consistent or meaningful in the world. For those who've learned the rituals of everyday life unconsciously, and unconsciously teach them in their turn, deliberately applied ritual of the kind of prostitution and torture reassures; maybe that is what is happening. I always feel uncomfortable and uncertain bringing ritual into an argument, find myself falling back on what Socrates liked to say: something like this must be the truth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

UCLA Center For Medieval Studies Launches Inquisition: Everyone Attending Lectures To Be Photographed For Police Investigation

1.

Posted:

UCLA's Center For Medieval Studies has begun to implement its new policy of photographing, for the sake of future police investigation, all who attend lectures, their department secretary confirmed today. She was unwilling to disclose whether the Center plans on instituting other traditional practices of the Inquisition such as torture and burning at the stake.

For further information, contact:

Massimo Ciavolella
Director of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
310-825-1880 
cmrs@humnet.ucla.edu


2.


- What was that about?
- Money. We're supposed to have a democracy because we have elections even though the people we elect work only for those who pay the highest bribes. Similarly the University advertises free open lectures but "free and open" is not what you'll find if you take them up on their invitation.
- You're saying the open lectures are window dressing? Mere show?
- At the last lecture I attended...
- What was it on?
- The study of the hundreds of thousands of surviving business letters from the 11th century Jewish community in Egypt who wrote Arabic with Hebrew characters. Because Jewish law forbid anything with the name of god written on it being destroyed, and because Arabic forms of politeness often included the naming of god, all these letters were stored, and many have survived to this day. So after the lecture a man working for the department took out a camera and started taking pictures of the 10 or 12 audience members individually. A woman who often attends these lectures, astonished by this, asked him what he was doing.
- What did he say?
- That he could lie and answer it was for a brochure, but he was going to honor her with the truth, which was that he was gathering evidence to turn over to the police for investigation.
- Did she ask if he was accusing her personally?
- Yes. He said he was. I knew her a little, had spoken to her a couple of times at other lectures. She's an intelligent and educated woman. When I met her again, and I pressed her, she explained to me what really was happening. She'd been at another lecture and had had a conversation with an older woman from England. Because she did not make the usual small talk and left open the possibility of friendship between the two, who were both European, the old woman got scared and complained to the department she was being harassed. And since, as the departmental assistant with the camera explained, the older European woman was a big donor to the department, they were taking action. I asked him why he thought the university had the right to photograph lecture audiences. He answered, "they eat our cookies".
- "They eat our cookies." You think things are bad, but no. They're worse. Did you take any action?
- Not at first. Then I thought about the attack on this woman whose native language wasn't English and couldn't easily defend herself, retraced my steps down the maze like passages of Royce Hall and found the room for the Center For Medieval Studies. Both the assistant and department secretary were in. I told them what I thought. That first, and unimportantly, what they were doing was illegal. Here the assistant broke in, said he didn't like the tone of my voice and he was going to call the police. I said, I see, when someone dares to say what he thinks the university responds with a threat of violence.
- What did he say?
- The secretary told him he should leave.
- Did he?
- No. He'd lost control of himself, was shaking with rage that one of the insects his investigation had under observation landed on his face. I went on to the secretary: the department had to post legal notice if they were going to do any photography. She said the university had a general warning if you set foot on any campus of the University of California you sign away your life and give your permission to be photographed. At least, the last part is what she said. I said that was legal garbage, the common standard for giving notice is that notice had to be placed somewhere where the people being notified were likely to read it. Usually that meant at the door or on the page of the internet announcing the event. Leave that aside, I said. The important thing is that what you are doing is intolerably brutal and stupid. What is the most famous event this department studies? I'll answer: the inquisition. See any connection? Of course not. For you, it's all about money. Do you know what Chesterton said about people like you? Your stupidity is such you think that by congratulating everyone on doing bad somehow good would result. You want to subject anyone attending your lectures to be hunted like criminals because you take it for granted there is no sympathy between strangers and there can never be. Your stupidity is such  that you don't know that every stranger is a possible friend, and that friendship and concern and love can arise if you only look for them. You people are a disgrace to the Renaissance art put into designing this building, you people are a disgrace to this university and to any university.
- And at that dramatic moment you turned your back on them and left. Nice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Two Messiahs

I didn't want to write more about good and bad technology, or about magic and the metaphysics of property, and certainly not more about the Messiah of Beverly Hills, but I fell victim to fate. Walking to Westwood through Holmby Park I crossed paths with one of the two women I know in the neighborhood who wander around alone dressed in fine high fashion clothing with the added peculiarity of long hair matted in a dense pile atop the head in the form of a truncated cone, rather like a volcano or rounded pyramid. When I stop and chat she usually talks about the ghosts that inhabit regions of the city we both pass through on our walks, and today she did too, with the difference that she said she'd been thinking of me, and wanted to let me know the Defense Department was waiting for me to contact them. Why? I asked. They have something for me. Ok, I said, see you, and went on up to the UCLA campus. Where, chance would have it, I met the other woman of the neighborhood who wears fine clothes and the volcano on her head. She informed me there was a set of lectures she was going to on the subject of "Philosophy And Religious Experience", in commemoration of the retirement of a UCLA professor who'd made his name writing on the subject. I should attend, she said, I didn't need to have religious experiences to appreciate, she didn't herself, and the professor didn't either, he'd previously told her himself. Hearing that how could I resist going? The following dialog is the result.

- Do you know what?
- What?
- It occurs to me that you both live with a Messiah and are one yourself, sort of. How are things at the Messiah's by the way? His eighty year old mother still attacking you as you try to leave in the morning, bug eyed and foaming at the mouth, raving about her lost chicken leg?
- Yes. I slip in late at night and hope she doesn't see me, leave at six in the morning before she is awake. It doesn't always work. Sometimes she lies in wait for me, stays up late or keeps waking vigil, then goes on the attack. While she rages, shouts, tries to close in on me, the Messiah goes on reading his Torah or playing with his telephone as though nothing is happening. If it goes on too long, five or ten minutes, the disturbance comes to his attention. He gets to his feet, shouts. This has no effect, as he knows. He shouts again, to no effect. Finally he does what he knows will work, goes into the dining room and starts swiping with his hand at the crystals dangling from the chandelier. That does the trick. Nothing is more important than property, shows of rage have to be forgotten.
- You lead an interesting life.
- Getting more interesting all the time. As I was coming home last night a neighbor told me the police had been there.
- What about?
- Some woman visitor.
- One of the crazy prostitutes from the strip clubs the Messiah frequents?
- The neighbor didn't know. The Messiah grabbed the visitor, or maybe grabbed his mother. Police were called. No big deal, police are there once a month, usually called by the Messiah himself to eject the crazy prostitute he's taken home to live with him and his mother. Proudly declaring his disdain for the world and his detachment from people, he can't be still, is always stirring things up. He goes in and out of the apartment all day long. There's always a crisis there, or one brewing
- What does he do when he goes out?
- Gives away a few dollars here, a few dollars there, to people he meets on the street, at Ralphs or Starbucks, until his allowance runs out.
- Didn't you ask him what had happened?
- No. Besides, he wouldn't tell me the truth. He is the savior because he follows god's rules. But one of god's rules is what he calls the 'Wisdom of Solomon', that is, lying.
- God allows lying when it makes following god's rules easier?
- Yes. So tell me why I am a messiah.
- Around a month ago you told me this story. Computer scientists were having trouble getting robots to search out in an unfamiliar place the things they were programmed to operate on. One computer scientist had a brother who was a philosopher, a phenomenologist, and explained the problem to him. The philosopher taught the computer scientist that we learn to see by moving through the world. What computer scientists had to do with the robots was get them to do what we do, they had to move them through the motions that they wanted them to perform and have them associate those movements with the images cameras recorded of the room as they were moved through it, which images later could be recognized and responded to. It worked.
- As that research was supported by the U.S. Defense Department so is research I just heard about into what is being called "blending", previously known to philosophy in the practice of dialog and imitation. According to this theory, civilization started when human beings could "blend" themselves with others, put themselves in the position of other human beings. They - the blending researchers - have been given millions of dollars to work out how to use this idea to facilitate communication between robot soldiers.
- That's what I was getting at. If philosophy is being mined by the military to make machines of destruction placed in the hands of a government no one in his right mind could possibly say is well intentioned, can't philosophy be enlisted to do some good instead?
- And I'm supposed to be the messiah of philosophy-used-right and save the world?
- The job is open.
- What I can do is something like the computer scientists did, mine the history of philosophy, not to develop technology but to understand how technology is likely to be misused, find a language to describe that misuse.
- Go ahead. Save us from technology.
- It's philosophy that's going to do the saving. The enemy technologist found weapons in philosophy of "seeing by doing" and of building up "blends" of different individual's ideas. Our saving philosophy is going to offer us "matter", and "magic". We go back to the ancient view of Parmenides in which there are two worlds, one real and one imitation. The real one we see when we stop moving, and in that world there is no movement or separate things. All is one.
- Religious experience.
- Yes. The other world is the one we see when we are in movement. It isn't real, but we need to learn how to move through it to get out of it to the real world. Are you with me?
- Yes.
- Learning how to move through the world of appearance is a matter of technique: mastering ways of doing things that lead you to love, to beauty, to truth. You stop moving in the sight of these good things because you are out of the world of separate things. There is no place to go, and no time to get there in: there are no events in the fullness of the experience of being at one with the world. Now there is another, fundamental technique of life, opposed to this one. When an ape scares another ape by making faces, or a king scares his subjects by a show of his magnificence, the king and ape rest from their labor of show and sign making. Ape and kind have practiced the technique of arranging people or apes with each other, and when they look at lower ape and subject they see "material", they see a sign of their own power to use them. The technique of arrangement they practice is a kind of magic, in which power resides in the "matter" or capacity of the lower ape or human to do the upper human or ape's bidding. The rest from movement is in this world of separate things, so is not really rest. The seeming rest is filled with the imagined movement that can be released out of the matter, the imagined future movement of that matter, the "form" the matter can take on.
- I don't understand.
- When the king looks at his subjects he sees his power. He imagines future movement of the subjects, separate things in the world. The subject can take on the "story" of whatever work assigned to him. Getting the subject to respect his power is a kind of magic. An ape doesn't understand why making faces and threatening gestures gets the other apes to accede to his authority, but it happens. Same goes for kings and subjects. And the same goes for the alchemist, putting one metal in contact with another, saying words which are intended to do exactly what the faces the apes make do: grant power over "matter". Science develops when the relations between things is studied carefully, not left to associations and resemblances of words and appearances. I'll give you an example. When the Messiah's crazy mother had attacked me a few times I discovered the best thing to do was growl at her like a bear. Did I see this as a discovered magic power to be used in the world, as psychological science? No. I laughed. Laughing gets you out of the world. Compare the Messiah's reaction - it turns out the Messiah was in the bedroom he shares with his mother, and sleepy audience to his mother attack on me heard and enjoyed my growling defense.
- Did he laugh?
- No. He gloated. Here was a nice defeat for the old woman who'd dedicated her life to controlling his life.
- Tell me again what matter is.
- Matter is what you see when you gain knowledge and technique and don't get out of the world. And matter itself, going by the name of god, becomes the ultimate goal.
- Why?
- Because if you don't have the end of getting out of the world some other final goal in the world has to be found. Power is means to an end. Power for the sake of power is meaningless. You need to have a reason to do something and gain power to do more things. When philosophy left behind the distinction between movement and rest it began to incorporate god, formerly unmoving and undivided in his own world, now as an element among other elements in the world of movement and separate things.
- Lost me.
- Leaving behind the two worlds view, philosophers made hierarchies, charts, of different matters used to realize different powers. Body was at the bottom, realized or actualized by the soul that kept it together. Ideas were a bit higher, realized by groups of ideas, "blends" as the Defense Department researchers would call them. And above all was the matter of the whole world, with god being the realized power of every magical technique practiced in that whole world of matter.
- But why bother with this?
- Because, as I said, there had to be a goal to all the increase of power aimed at. If there was not ever to be a rest, there had to be something fixed in all the movement to be aimed at, and that fixed thing was god.
- Ok. You tell all these stories of your Messiah because he so clearly has god in his corner, in his own world. He is authorized by god to perform his magic on the world, getting power over people by giving them money, doing on a smaller scale what the big power broker in the sky does. Philosophy tells us how the misusers of philosophy misuse it. What do we do about it?
- We do to ourselves what we did for the robots: we move ourselves through the world of ideas looking for signs of absence of rest and signs of matter, we learn the world as the robot learned its room.
- We locate our gods in Beverly Hills, see our gods in raving old woman and their whoring messiah sons.
- Yes. We laugh. We avoid secrets and powers. I wrote a story about girl gangs starting an anarchist revolution in the U.S. I put it on the internet, with the sense that this in itself was a beautiful thing to do. I didn't expect to cause a revolution, though I thought the government might not know it. In fact shortly after writing and posting the story I got a message from one of my Linkedin connections, praising my technique. I'd been getting a lot of visits lately from Arlington, Virginia, site of the Pentagon, and I'd supposed I was being spied on. This LinkedIn connection worked at the Pentagon. I wrote asking what he did there. He responded, did I want to know his official job or his real one, implying of course he couldn't tell me the real one.
- He was admitting he was a spy.
- Yes. He didn't have to worry I was going anywhere with my idea, that is, anywhere in this world.
- He doesn't need to hide because you aren't hiding. There might be secret power in matter ready to be explosively released in an revolution, but you weren't interested. Any kind of direct change is no goal for you. Your use of power is not in the world, but to get out of the world. My question is, if people become able to recognize the wrong way, if philosophy can do with us poor human beings what the computer scientists did with the robots, guide us through the world by giving us experience of it of the kind that gives us sight of what is better or worse, isn't the job of messiah open to us all? Doesn't the practice of the power to get out of the world exert some power on the world we get out of? I mean, would it not be true that the more people who practice the power to get out, the fewer there are to be enslaved by those practicing the power to stay in?
- If the philosophy was good enough, maybe. There have always been people who wanted to live in the right way. How much difference it makes having a better, more high-tech language to describe the right way - that history will have to decide.
- Come on, you can do better than that. You haven't given more than a hint of what that high-tech goodness would look like.
- Our sense of possession, ownership of property is seeing a thing as matter. Without secrets, without magical language, technology can re-evaluate what is an acceptable relation to property in society. Happy now?
- Actually, I am. Could be a beginning like that is all we've been waiting for.


Further Reading:
The Technology Of Good
The Girls (A Story Of Revolution)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Freedom In Thought, Freedom In Action



1.

- Have you ever wondered about how different freedom of thought is from freedom of action?
- As in we can write anything we want on the Internet as long as we don't do anything?
- Usually we don't try to control other people's thinking, not unless it somehow comes to interfere with our action.
- When does that happen?
- For example, the recent murder of the French cartoonists who'd make fun of the Prophet Mohammed. Religion is more about rituals than ideas. The killers found that publication of the cartoons interfered with their practice of ritual.
- Why?
- Ideas do not prevent other ideas from being entertained, but every ritual practice is inconsistent with every other. You can jump from one idea to another, use one idea to develop another, but ritual works by repetition. Interruption and alteration are enemies to the peace and security ritual provides.
- Would you say that all ritual leads to an attempt to control the thinking of non-participants?
- That's the question isn't it? When we're told we must tolerate each other's different rituals are we really being set at each other's throats? Islam is said to mean "submission". Submission is to authority, and the peace and security that is derived from submission is precisely that derived from the repetition of ritual. Consider this conversation I had with a student soldier a few days ago. He'd been momentarily separated from his troop doing military exercises in the center of the University. I approached him:

- Some people don't like to see slavery made a display of.
- I choose to serve. I'm exercising my freedom of choice.
- Your choice limits my freedom of choice.
- How? I want to serve my country.
- By voluntarily making yourself a slave you make yourself a tool politicians can use to enslave others against their will or, worse, kill them. By voluntarily making yourself a slave you encourage others to become slaves and you deprive those who want to remain free of companions and collaborators in the job of staying free.
- Sir, you have your opinion I have mine.
- Sir means father. You're making a politic gesture of submission to me as older than you, but a father should try to keep a child from making mistakes there is not time in life to recover from. You hurt yourself by your submission as well as hurt other people.

- What did he reply?
- He went back to his troop.


2.

- You are going to make yourself one unpopular guy if you go on attacking the military.
- The military is supposed to be a refuge of the unselfish from the greed of the larger society.
- Soldiers risk their lives for their country.
- They risk their lives after, having submitted their will to authority, they've given up the ability to know whether it is worthwhile to risk their lives for their country. And in fact they act no more unselfishly than the typical corporate director whose influence actually determines the government's policies. The corporate director serves the ritual of money making for the sake of money making, the soldier serves the ritual of killing without responsibility for his country. The difference is the corporate executive is much better paid.* Is it unselfish to make yourself a slave to ritual for the sake of low pay rather than high?
- I don't see why not.
- The reason why not is that ritual practice itself is selfish. It's payoff is in peace and security. Only individual and creative life is unselfish. It is difficult, uncertain, involves great risk of failure, it aims to create a life or a work of art that is inspiring to everyone. There is nothing in the world easier than to kill a man, as the mafia saying goes, and perhaps, not needless to say, nothing more selfish.
___________________
* The soldier, and the serving poor in general, are in a battle of rituals with the rich who make money for the sake of making money. The corporate director thinks no more of the lives of serving soldiers than do fundamentalist Muslims the French cartoonists they kill.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Same Eyes

- Terrible, terrible. Last night I was at the conference on police killing of unarmed blacks, one per day this past year. Present were faculty from Black studies, Economics, Sociology, History, Gender Studies. The moderator praised the faculty participants for about 15 minutes, then got down to the business of complaining. Dark skinned people were being shot by the police, a million of them were in prisons, Los Angeles had the largest prison population of any city in the world and was planning on building more prisons. I looked on in contempt.
- Why were you there if you hate them so much?
- To learn from their mistakes.
- And what were they doing wrong aside from complimenting each other?
- What they were doing wrong was not distinguish themselves from the groups doing the killing and imprisoning of them. They were the losing group in a battle with the winning.
- What do you expect them to do?
- What they can't do. As long as they give their lectures, write their books, the corporate sponsors of the University will continue to deliver their pay and even pay them more if they make a name for themselves. They will get paid no matter what they say as long as they don't challenge a fundament assumption.
- Which is?
- That the relation of human beings to things is sacrosanct, more important than human beings to each other. As long as human relation to property is more important that human relation to humans, human beings will see each other as property, see each other as kinds of things and kill and imprison the kind of human things they have no better use for.
- Racial politics results from property being considered important than everything else?
- So I believe. When people have something real in common they not only are not classifiable by group, they are invisible to each other. I'll tell you what I mean with a story. In the early days when my wife Beatrix and I were together, she said to me, "I don't know whether I should tell you this, but when I look at you I see myself." I thought I understood what she meant: not that she was vain and the whole world was a reference to herself. No. She liked to challenge me with the demand, Tell me why you are with me? What do you want? What are you getting out of this affair? My answer was always the same: I felt at home with her, she was my equal.
- Equal in what?
- In spirit. In being willing to take on whatever the world threw at her, at being willing to take on me and my life without social standing, at least sometimes, when she wasn't running away or throwing me out. I didn't realize until last week, three years from last sight of her, what really led her to making her remark.
- Which was?
- I'd gone to the internet to watch a video Beatrix had made when she was in acting school. Suddenly it hit me: her eyes were like mine.
- So she literally saw herself when she looked at you.
- Yes. And it must have worked the same for me though I wasn't aware of it. I was only aware that she was my equal. She was with me in life. No matter how much we fought she knew I would return and I knew she would too.
- What is the application to police killing and jailing of blacks?
- There is no use complaining about gangs acting like gangs. To the extent a society is a society there has to be something in common, some real equality.
- We have to be able to see equality in each other's eyes.
- Yes. Otherwise we will identify each other in our differing relation to property. I've told you, right, I'm finished with the Internet.
- Finished with posting links, not obsessing over your wife.
- Every day I sent out titles and links to at least a 100 different stories to 10,000 social media connections. A million messages a day for three and a half years. That makes one billion messages I've caused to appear on computer screens. A half million visits to my site resulted. That's enough. I quit.
- About time since you got nothing out of it, no money, no fame. Why did you do it?
- I couldn't ask people to pay money earned by slavery to read stories telling them not to be slaves. I didn't want to establish a relation of property with them. And I didn't mind being invisible.
- You wanted them to see in your eyes their own.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Compassion & The Story

- The Millennials. They have no compassion.
- Remember when we were the younger generation and what the older and wiser said about us?
- You think there are no differences?
- Sure there are. Those who came of age in the year 2000 and after are more social, cooperative out of self interest, are less political except in protection of their freedom and demand for tolerance.
- They are ambitious.
- In a word. But do you know why they lack compassion?
- Why?
- They have no stories.
- Everyone has a story.
- Are you sure? There are only a few kinds of stories: those that end in death, those that are of wandering and returning home, those that are of falling in love and making a home. Do you see anything in common?
- What do they have in common?
- A story is an account of movement from place to place. A story ends when movement ends, when there is no longer any reason or possibility of movement. When we were kids the talk was all peace, love, understanding, beauty, truth...
- I remember.
- These words refer to states of inaction: they are reflections, bring to mind awareness of a good relation to the world.
- They tell us we are at home. I get it.
- To feel at home requires character, requires that we have a certain character that the place we find ourselves in suits perfectly, suits so perfectly we don't have to do anything. These feelings are the end of a story.
- But what is character?
- Habit. Habits are strengthened by repetition. Habits give us capacity to do things, but also take from us capacity to do other things. A body builder does well lifting weights but not at ballet. Ambitious people aim at achieving freedom from the restraints of character. To be able to do whatever is required to succeed, whatever is asked of them by others without shame or hesitation. They have no character, and consequently have no home.
- But they do have homes. They are about the only people these days who have their own place to live.
- Millennials seek freedom. They'll do what's required to get rich. There isn't a special place or person for them, because being changeable themselves, so are the places and people appropriate to their different selves changeable. What kind of stories can they have if there can be no end?
- They can still die.
- But the significance of death in those stories was in the failure to get home. Dying without trying to go home is not a story.
- Then what happens?
- Why do people want freedom? To have the power to do things. What do they want to do? Presumably not satisfy desires, that's not the Millennial type. Millennials are ambitious. They want to acquire things, not for the pleasure of use, though that comes along with it. Possessions, and especially money, are sought as symbols of power.
- They want political freedom to exercise power to acquire symbols of freedom to exercise power...
- A circle. They distract themselves from sight of this meaninglessness with entertainments, games, intoxications. For them homes are geographic places with walls that protect these activities. They go from activity outside the home to activities inside the home. They don't stop, and they don't notice they don't have a story because they keep recycling activity with others outside the home to recovery activities within the home. Ambition however can have a kind of story.
- What's that?
- Deliberately acquiring more and more symbols of power and freedom.
- If we don't have any reason to acquire power to be free for its own sake what reason can we have to acquire more power to be free for its own sake?
- None. But you see, there is a kind of character to the ambitious, despite their claim to be entirely flexible in their pursuit of more and more symbols of power. They get good at the politics of acquisition, but get very bad at everything else, finally reaching the point that the words describing what we feel when we are at home have no meaning.
- Love, peace, truth.
- On the other hand when you feel yourself struggle on your way home you don't want to be free of the demand to go home. Taking such freedom upon yourself means a loss, means literally the loss of home. Once you know what it means to be unfree and struggling you can share what people feel who are in similar circumstances. You don't blame or dismiss them as losers in the game of acquiring freedom and power, don't pretend they are practicing an arcane form of freedom unfamiliar to you. You certainly don't blame anyone for not having the character of acquiring more and more symbols of the power to acquire, which is a deviant, deformed character that can never find a home.
- The only people who have compassion for others, who can see them in their stories, are those who have stories themselves.