Monday, October 27, 2014

Crazy People



- Do you really live with crazy people?
- Yes.
- You take care of them?
- No. They take care of me.
- What do you mean?
- Financially, since I don't pay.
- You know Foucault's idea* that we didn't know what a crazy person was until we started locking them up in hospitals and trying to cure them? That we didn't have a sense of justice until we start locking up criminals?
- What did we have?
- You know this very well, stop pretending. We had immorality, we had the weakness of giving in to our inclinations.
- And what changed?
- We began to make claims to knowledge. We became specialists in criminality, experts in insanity.
- And according to Foucault any claim to knowledge becomes a source of class war.
- Yes. Tell me why, if you can.
- Knowledge becomes class war because of two factors: leadership, and property. Those who know, it seems reasonable, should lead, and those who are led become a kind of property of the leaders.** But it doesn't have to be this way.
- Knowledge without leadership and property?
- Exactly. You know, I actually met Foucault. I was working on this idea when I was 19 and sent my college thesis to him. He invited me to visit him in Paris.
- What did he like about your idea?
- That I had worked out his idea. You've seen Foucault's debate with Chomsky?*** Foucault says even the oppressed fights the oppressor for power, not justice, because justice is just an artifact of class relations, of knowledge turned to power. Chomsky argues there is justice, approximate but real, based on knowledge. Foucault denies there is justice independent of class and power.
- And how did you work this out?
- By accepting both sides of the argument. I imagined, in the tradition of Plato's Republic, the construction of a state, beginning with the assumption no one knew the nature of humanity and therefore there could be no central authority. Groups were voluntary and diverse, could decide for themselves the rules about what harmed human nature and what didn't. Right to property in some views would be tromped by right to life, in other views it wouldn't.
- No leaders exerting force. No assumptions about property. Voluntary associations, and voluntary association between associations, I suppose. 19th century anarchist theory, with some philosophic analysis thrown in. I can see why Foucault liked it. The question of what we know of human nature is avoided, agreed upon knowledge is not there to become the basis of power, yet the analysis of force and property**** allows justice in by the back door, as it were, for those who're interested. So you've had philosophic correspondence***** with both Foucault and Chomsky. And you live with, are taken care of by crazy people. You have to be the best argument against taking philosophy seriously I ever heard of.

Further Reading:
The Debate
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Morals And Happiness

__________________
Foucault Interview
** Principle Of Sharing + Exception Of Private Property + The State = Class War
*** The Chomsky Foucault Debate
**** Freedom & Property, part of The Technology Of Good
***** Noam Chomsky & Mental Things

Sunday, October 26, 2014

UCLA 2014



- You hear? The screaming carries all the way up to the top of the steps.
- I was talking about it with my son - this is my son. I have a friend who's dream was just realized - his son matriculated to Annapolis.
- The Navel Academy. Is that your dream too?
- No. My dream is for my son to go to UCLA. He's starting this year.
- The square down there is the most public place on campus. When I was in school the military cadets had their ritual humiliation done to them in private. Now both the humiliating and humiliated proudly enact their indoctrination in public.
- They have their own culture.
- You call that culture? How is it culture? Culture is building on knowledge and passing knowledge down between generations. The screaming down there is what apes do. The stronger make faces and shake their fists at the weaker who learn to back down rather than get in a losing battle.
- Yes. But the military protects our country.
- Armies function perfectly well with elected leaders, or with the reasoned cautious obedience of employees in a hierarchical corporation. Look at the Israeli army, their officers, many or most mild mannered doctors, lawyers, engineers, are obeyed.
- Maybe you're right.
- Of course I'm right. You're not afraid you're looking at your son's future down there? A professor at the law school told me her students were afraid to say what they really thought. Afraid that what they said somehow would end up on the internet and when they had to get a job employers would see and that would be it for them, their future would be 100,000 dollars in debt and no job.
- What can we do?
- Let's walked into the ranks, walk right into their faces. Show them not everyone has given in.
- No. You go. We'll watch from here.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Declaration / Woman Of My Dreams



To wake up and discover you are still a child and have what the child wanted, dream and reality together. (from The Memory Book)

- What's new?
- Well, at Starbucks, these days, on the left side and the right side of the entrance are two men who talk to themselves, there used to be just one.* They don't speak to each other. Or, needless to say, listen to each other. And there's the young guy at Beverly Canon Gardens who has set up shop selling, tastefully framed, the original American Declaration Of Independence.
- That's rare.
- Yes. He's willing to offer a good price, though on the internet it's going for three or four billion dollars.
- Is he selling anything else?
- He might have a couple more in his suitcase. Remember the watchmaker from Switzerland I told you about?** Tonight I saw him sitting at the document seller's table, arms crossed in a significant fashion, the document seller doing the same. Turns out they are masonic brothers.
- How do you find these people?
- They find me.
- Anything else happening?
- I  have this recurring dream in which I know there is a friend, a love, someone from my past who I can't remember but who is going to reappear and save me, get my life back on track.
- What's wrong with your life?
- It's stuck. You know how in science fiction stories what happens in a dream world affects the real world, or sometimes the other way around, what happens in the real world affects the dream world, or sometimes both?
- Yes.
- Well, that is not what I mean. I mean that I had my dreams, and for the first half of my life had absolute contempt for reality. I didn't have the slightest wish to change reality, and wasn't at all afraid that reality would deprive me of my dreams.
- And the second half of your life?
- I saw that artists could make make a reality that incorporated their dreams, but I wasn't an artist. So what was I to do?
- Make an art out of life.
- Yes, make an art out of life, but how does one do that?
- Romance and adventure. Get into trouble, fall in love, get out of trouble and get the girl.
- And if you are too shy to throw yourself into love and adventure?
- I don't know. What's left, if you're not an artist and not a hero?
- What used to be called philosophy.
- Are you admitting to being a philosopher now?
- I'll tell you a story. Or rather, go on with the one I was telling. I had this recurring dream of a forgotten friend or lover reappearing and saving me...
- From a life you can't be a hero in or make art out of.
- Yes, reappear and save me from my incompetence. And last month, out of the blue of my computer's screen comes an email from the Swedish girl I was in love with when I was in my 20s.
- How old was she?
- 19. She was really wild, we went travelling, she disappeared. A few years later she reappeared, she was living in San Diego. We met for a day, she disappeared again. I tracked her down a few years later, she was living in London. We went travelling, she disappeared again.
- I sense a pattern.
- And last month, the pattern reasserts itself, and after an interval of more than 25 years, she reappears again. The dream become a reality, with the friend I had forgotten reappearing.
- To go by the past, not for long.
- I was most curious to know how she remembered me, that person I was 25 or 30 years ago.
- She probably remembered a dreamer who didn't see or care about patterns.
- You're right. I told her how I was living, and she didn't believe me. A dreamer like me needed money, and needed social class to protect him. If I had neither money nor social class...
- Why did she think you had money?
- When we met I was living and working with my father. He was wealthy at the time, had a successful business.
- Go on.
- So, according to her, if I had neither money nor social class to protect me for my life of dreaming, I would either have to stop dreaming or be dead. Since I wasn't dead...
- You were a liar. What was your answer?
- Maybe you'll like this. My answer was that I'd figured out how to get dreams to directly change reality without ever being separate from reality.
- And of course you're going to tell me how dreams change reality.
- They do it by existing within reality, by opening it up, finding possibilities that were already there and setting them free.
- And how do you do that?
- How else if you're not a hero and not an artist?
- By philosophy.
- Think about the accusation my Swedish friend made against me. I must be lying, because dreams were not reality; because my dreams required money; because my dreams depended on inequality in social relations, on a class structure. If possibility existed in physical reality, of a different understanding of the physics of things that included both alternatives of a world seen as a whole and of individual, separate things; if possibility existed in economic reality other than exchange between enemies, of instead gifts between friends; if possibility existed in political reality, in which the reality of economic generosity became the means of political organization, and the end aimed at of political organization became gaining sight of a physical world of things seen without separation,*** then?
- Then your dreaming would have remade reality. Did your dreaming remake reality? Physical, economic, political reality?
- You see me here before you, still existing, still alive.
- But judging by your constant complaining, maybe not for long. Do you claim your mere thinking of these possibilities actually changed reality so as to let you go on living when otherwise, I agree with your Swedish recurrently absconding friend, you should be dead? Or did you in actual fact act on your thinking?
- I acted. Though I didn't except ridiculously have adventures, I got married and I did a kind of business,**** I talked and thought my way through such that my romantic and heroic incompetence was overcome.
- Philosophy opened up possibilities in economic and political reality and kept a dreamer like you alive and in your dreams. Really truly?
- You see the evidence before you, living and breathing.
- You live to tell the tale. I don't have to believe it.
- I'll work on telling it better. Until then, here's a reading list:
On Stories:
You Have To Have A Story
On Physics:
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
On Economics:
The Tools To Remake Our Lives
On Politics:
When We Love
____________________

P.S. The woman of my dreams wrote: "You and what we call reality don't seem to be on the same page. Normally, this is something that I quite like. (Really.) But it does require absolute freedom and funds. Without freedom and funds, not quite understanding reality can and will always result in complete disaster. So - you see - it's a bit scary. For real. Have you ever heard of the term "slumming"? This is what you were doing. Checking out poor people like some sort of sociological study." See: Desiree's Child  Listen: Dreamer

You Crazy, Man!
** Enclosure
*** Means & Ends
**** Married To The Business Of Buying

Thursday, October 23, 2014

What You Can Expect When You Shop At Whole Foods Market, Beverly Hills



As you enter you see painted on the floor in giant letters "VALUES: No artificial flavors, additives, preservatives". But maybe your value is no artificial people? Sorry, you'll have to shop someplace else. Look to your left. Behind the counter is the surveillance staff, watching you enter, watching their screens. They watch you as a possible loss of income or a possible gain. They don't know which. They have to watch. You have your values, they have theirs. You value additive free food, they value humanity free profit and loss. They're allowed. It's a free country. Or no, not so free. Not if you don't want to be hunted while you shop by the surveillance staff. And not if you don't want to be subject to the empty politeness of customer service staff. True, the ritual respect of How are you today, sir? makes for a more efficient shopping experience than being hunted by the surveillance staff. But there is, or was, another kind of experience than shopping? Was there? What was that?

Further Reading:
When We Love

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When We Love



1.

- But why do you warn me against reading Plato's 'Republic'? Isn't it good? Why do people talk so much about it?
- It's more than good. It's a masterpiece. That's the problem.
- How can a masterpiece be a problem?
- It says more than people are ready to understand.
- What stops them?
- Propaganda, indoctrination, conformity.
- Brain washing.
- Propaganda works by assimilating the moral to the political. As in advertising a product comes pre-sold with a way of life*, like a word fixed in a sentence, in propaganda the moral word comes complete with the political sentence.
- Is that what happens in Plato's 'Republic'?
- Yes. It pretends to be an attempt to understand the moral from the study of the political.
- Should we try to understand the political from the moral?
- That's just as big a mistake.
- What's left?
- Understand how they work together.
- Don't we need to understand what they are individually before we understand how they work together?
- No. We can't determine our political life on the basis of knowing how we should live morally. We can't determine our moral life by knowing how we should live politically. Our moral and political experiences can't be used to explain each other.
- Why not?
- Because our moral life is without content, and our political life is experimental, improvised, instrumental. We can't construct a political life on the basis of "love" because love does not have any of the components political life is put together with. We can't construct our moral life out of politics, for the reason that love has no parts at all. It is an experience of wholeness.
- Then?
- Plato's 'Republic' is politics that is supposed to explain morality, and it does, but it is a really terrible morality. Remember what we said about why nations fail?**
- Remind me.
- An individual, in his own life, has a goal: love and sympathy. To reach that goal he experiments on various public practices until he can stop acting, relax in peace and feeling at home.
- An individual has a personal politics?
- Yes.
- And the individual uses a personal politics to reach a personal morality?
- A personally experienced morality, which is, in fact, the same kind of experience for everyone.
- And morality doesn't teach us our politics, we experiment, and our politics doesn't teach us our morality, that is indoctrination, destroys our creativity, instead we seek out morality and know it when we find it and anyway it is the same for everyone.
- Yes.
- Go on.
- So we saw that political cycles of increasing and decreasing freedom share an element in common with economic cycles of increasing or decreasing concentration of wealth.
- You said the violence inherent in trade for profit leads into the violence of the political attempt of the few to despoil the many, a violence against human nature to sympathize.
- The word "economy" has its origin in the Greek for home. Our moral relation to people which should be of love and understanding is instead trade for profit, and that mistaken morality infects our politics, leading to injustice and rule by the rich.
- Morality influences politics, and politics influence morality.
- Exactly like it does in an individual's life.
- So the state that Plato describes does not illustrate our moral life, but is an extreme form of politics that corrupts our moral life.
- Right.
- And Plato in writing 'The Republic' is showing how our political life can be corrupted by our morality? But because we're brainwashed we don't understand we are not meant to follow in his ironically pursued path?
- Right.
- But what morality is politics corrupted by? Can you tell me?
- The most general, and the most alien to Plato's view of the world: looking for good or bad fixed in our action, either in our lives as individuals or as a group.
- Where should we look for morality?
- When we stop acting.
- When we love.


2.

- Say you wanted to do more than read a book of philosophy, you wanted to go and start a revolution. How would you apply this discussion?
- Great, let's have some reality here. We poor indoctrinated souls, in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, stand up to authority, fight the government and win our revolution. And then nothing really changes. One undesirable form of politics replaces another. That's because, according to our discussion, we've assumed that our politics includes morality, that all we have to do is change politics and the good of life will take care of itself. Or we think that like in the 60s if we make a moral revolution, political problems will go away, that a political solution is implied in our morality. But instead we get the reaction of the 70s, the "me generation", greed, speculation, hyper-monopoly, empire, government surveillance...
- And propaganda.
- To make our revolution we keep in mind that our politics is not in our morality. and our morality is not in our politics. We can't rely on either morality or politics alone. To make our revolution we'll use our politics to create conditions conducive to morality, keep our eyes open to whether our politics make it easier or harder to be good.
- And how are you going to get the millions of indoctrinated to join you in your revolution?
- I'm going to defy you for one, your ban on Plato, and remind people of the beauty in life by encouraging them to talk things through and read good books!


Further Reading:
Street Politics
How Do You Make A Computer Not Want To Be A Computer?
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
____________________
You Crazy, Man!
** Why Nations Fail

Friday, October 17, 2014

You Crazy, Man!



- You finished your book? Started another one?
- What book?
- I saw you on TV, man. You're that writer guy.
- No I'm not.
- Whatever you say, man.
- You're surprisingly not crazy.
- Hey, you call me crazy. That's not cool.
- You sit all day outside Starbucks talking to yourself.
- I'm like you, man. I'm an artist.
- What art do you practice?
- I panhandle. Some sing, I talk. In Beverly Hills they like politics. I talk politics.
- You don't think people will wonder why a stranger has started a conversation and isn't expecting a response? If you're an orator where's your soapbox?
- I don't have nuthin', man.
- Do you know who you remind me of?
- Who?
- Talyor Swift.
- She a white girl, man. She a singer.
- She does a video ad for Coke with the slogan, "What if life tasted as good as Coke?" She takes a sip of Coke and a kitten appears in her room, she takes another sip, more kittens appear. Coke is making a statement, as ads like to say.
- What's the statement, man?
- "Buy Coke and life will be good". A product that makes a statement comes complete with the kind of life it is to be consumed in. Orwell called this kind of statement making "newspeak".
- Who's Orwell?
- Another writer guy. Newspeak remakes language so as to make thought difficult or impossible. This is accomplished, like in the Coke ad, by determining in advance for each idea named by a word the sentence describing the world it becomes part of, and restricting the use of that word to that sentence: "Drink coke and you'll have a sweet life filled with kittens". Call a law removing political freedom "The Patriot Act", and citizens imagine themselves patriots in their uncritical acceptance of it.
- That's some cool @h!#, man.
- Coke, making a statement, speaks for consumers, leaving the consumers themselves dumb, literally speechless. Choosing which statement to acquire with their consumables appears like freedom, a weird kind of freedom of speech. It is like a game: in chess you can play the role of rook, which has its particular moves, but along with role we take on come the rules of the game we have to follow: for example, one move for each player at each turn.
- Life is a game.
- Absolutely not! That's the problem. We use language to discover, to learn, to create. When we begin a sentence we don't know how we're going to finish it. We make it up as we go along. When we get our statements pre-made from advertisements or from a totalitarian government we're confined to our role and the game's rules. We can change games, we can buy a new product, we can make an infinite number of statements but none of them will ever be creative. We won't create art, we'll live out the possibilities of pre-created art.  Do you know now how you are like the white girl singer?
- No, man. You call me crazy, I call you crazy.
- Your speech making out here is like the Coke sips that create a community of kittens. Your speeches are like the Patriot act that makes us all patriots. They give you a place in life, a fixed place, an artist receiving pay for panhandling, but never does any of your words lead to a new statement, never does your speech open up into a conversation.
- You crazy, man, I talking to you. I gonna go now, make some money. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guru & God

From Zombies, Vampires, Sleepwalkers, Psychopaths, Monopolists

- See you later. You didn't forget your phone in the cafe? Leave it charging again?
- No, I only charge it once a week, hardly use it. It's only to warn the people I live with I'm coming home.
- You don't want anyone to call you?
- No one calls me.
- Why? You don't give out your number?
- No one is interested. They don't like hearing about the world I live in.
- What world?
- The world of the bible where the first thing that happens when we start thinking is one brother kills another for the sake of an idea. I live with people who act like they'd just been ejected from the Garden of Eden.
- You live with the Guru. You told me. The messiah who spends his days praying and giving away a few dollars to people on the street and nights going to strip clubs buying prostitutes.
- Last night he was on the phone for two hours trying to get this crazy old prostitute over to his house.
- To sleep with her?
- Yes. The problem is, last time she was over she, as they they put it in legal parlance, sexually assaulted the Guru's eighty year old demented mother. The Guru's sister found out, called the police, now the crazy prostitute is afraid to come over. The Guru laughed hysterically when the prostitute recounted for him the reasons she couldn't come over, clearly proud of his achievement: a mother without a mind sexually attacked in his home by an elderly schizophrenic prostitute leading up to having sex with her.
- With his mother?
- Maybe in a future episode. Unlike me, the Guru's telephone never stops ringing. He's very popular.
- He gives away money. No one calls you because you are from the times of the bible and don't give away money. You're the unlucky guy born on the wrong side of the garden fence about to be murdered.
- I'm the guy about to be murdered trying to understand what the hell is happening. In the bible story as soon as you start thinking you establish a role for yourself and you put others into roles, then you try to monopolize power.* You establish an idea of who you are and force everyone to pay tribute to it. The Guru is the Messiah of Beverly Hills, He demonstrates his power by desecrating all other roles in life: mother, brother, husband.
- He's married?
- Separated. When we start to think we lose the ability to sympathize and think really badly. We think really badly because we've lost the ability to sympathize. The first thing that happens in history we become murderers. We become murderers because we think without sympathy. Our way back to the garden is to understand we've lost the ability to sympathize and to think our way to regaining the ability.
- Which is what the bible stories are about.
- Meanwhile...
- Psychopaths, zombies, sleepwalkers, vampires, monopolists...
___________________
* Eve In The Garden Of Eden

Monday, October 13, 2014

Starbucks Corporation Says It Can't Afford To Give Away Water



Starbucks Corporation at their Beverly Hills flagship store has announced they no longer can afford to give away water. Costs were adding up, and in today's economy payments to elect politicians and bonuses.for top executives take priority.over making "humane" gestures. Starbucks, their representative explains, regrets any inconvenience their new policy may cause.

P.S. Don't believe it? Stop by or call store 13341, Starbucks Beverly Hills Triangle, 9811 S. Santa Monica Blvd; Beverly Hills, CA 90210-3115. (310) 552-3133

Zombies, Vampires, Sleepwalkers, Psychopaths, Monopolists



- Do you know why modern life is so dull?
- Do you think it is dull?
- I take a somewhat lively interest in trying to understand. Otherwise, yes. Deadly dull. The modern human being has the choice between only two characters, sleepwalker or psychopath, zombie or vampire being the dead versions of the same lack of sympathy in their passive or aggressive variants. What passes for sympathy among the living is actually attachment to property, fear of its loss or relief at holding on. Zombies and Vampires, being dead, don't want to build up acquisition of property in things or power over people, only want to perpetuate their hold on the precarious property of their dead self by acquiring possession over living bodies. The sleepwalkers and psychopaths, being technically speaking living, do actually create lasting arrangements of lack of sympathy and attachment to property.
- Which are?
- Monopolies, if you are going to believe the billionaire creator of an email based money transfer company and early investor in social media*. Free markets create competition, competition reduces profits. Only monopolies are really profitable. Monopolies are profitable because they invent something new, or because they destroy competition through buying up competitors or bribing the government to grant subsides or protection. The companies that don't do something unique or don't have the power to stop other companies from doing the same are zombies and vampires. They are dead, preyed on or preying on each other. The living, the sleepwalkers and psychopaths, are those companies that have successfully established monopolies, in their active or passive phases: sleepwalking monopolies complacent about their hold on market position, or vampire monopolies going full speed ahead buying up competition and bribing the government.
- Not very sympathetic behavior, but I wouldn't call it psychopathic.
- Psychopaths establish a kind of monopoly in their lives, in both aspects of monopoly: belief in the uniqueness of their "product", that is, themselves, and an active attempt to control the marketplace of human character so that it continues to reflect their own little world of perception, the idea of their own uniqueness.

Further Reading:
Enclosure
The Care And Feeding Of Vampires And Zombies
____________________
* Peter Thiel: Competition Is For Losers

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yes & No

No, Good and Bad are not relative. They are defined absolutely in deciding the presence or absence of integrity in an individual's life. Every individual has access to experience which can decide the matter. What makes a person whole and what makes a person divided feels entirely different.

But Yes, Good and Bad are not to be found in unvarying rules of conduct.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Enclosure

"Pride more compassionate than the lost generosities."*

- Any adventures today? What do you do all day, anyway?
- Make the rounds between market, library, school. Walk, read, think about things. Write stories. Today I sold my bike.
- How much?
- 50 dollars, to a guy at Whole Foods Market. With the cash handed over at the bank and settled in my debit card account I went on Ebay, found and bought the cheapest computer, 55 dollars including 2 day shipping.
- A new computer?
- That'd be nice. A seven year old IBM, Lenovo, that is.The name changed when IBM sold off their personal computer business.
- If corporations can't monopolize a market they aren't interested. What's happening with that woman from Sweden, the one who emailed you after 25 years, the one you were in love with?
- She thought she might share a place with me somewhere in the South of France, or Santa Cruz, she'd heard good things about Santa Cruz, but I have no money so that's out. Could be that's the extent of the overture, of the re-acquaintance.
- No surprise, right?
- Right. I bought the same computer, not coincidentally, my wife had.  
- You still miss her.
- I do. I don't miss living with her, I miss her.**
- What's the difference?
-  First I want to answer your other question.
- Which guy at Whole Foods bought your bike? The guy with the yellow beard who rides around with a pyramid on his bike clearing the air of cosmic rays?
- No.
- The little lawyer couple of cheapskates who clip coupons and debate the best prices in town for soap and stuff?
- Not them.
- The man who wears a new suit and shoes everyday and sits in the corner greeting everyone with "It's All Good"?
- No. I'm not going to tell you.
- That market cafe has to be the weirdest place in Beverly Hills.
- They've a lot of competition. So, what I did today. Today many of the characters at the market and a few others I've also told you about made a reappearance. I met the guy who asks for money outside Rite-Aid Drug Store, claims he takes in 2 dollars an hour which he then spends on a big can of beer. An eight hour day nets him 4 beers. He was sitting on the newspaper vending machine outside Whole Foods, his feet bare, kicking his heels against the vending box window. He said the boots I was wearing didn't look comfortable. I assured him they were. Today he said he was asking for money to buy shoes.
- For the cost of three beers you could buy shoes.
- No! Where?
- At the second hand shop on Robertson.
- I don't believe it.
- The boots I'm wearing cost 6 dollars.
- I don't buy second hand shoes. I have standards!
Right before the beer drinker with standards I met the Starbucks guy, the one with the new Mercedes Benz who takes the same plastic cup around to different Starbucks and asks for free refills. Hasn't paid for coffee in months. I asked him, didn't he mind they thought he was crazy?
- What did he say?
- He asked me why I thought he seemed crazy.
- You won't pay for coffee.
- I'm on a tight budget. Have million dollar deals in the works but no ready cash.
- And you're wearing a 1 dollar watch.
- How do you know? Oh yeah, you used to deal in watches. I actually called the company in China that makes it to see if I could import it. Do you think it would be a good business?
- Forget it. The retail trade is monopolized. No one will buy from you other than one or two family businesses which will pay 10 dollars for ten watches.
- They cost more than a dollar. Not much more, I admit.
- Monopoly again.
- It's everywhere. In the afternoon I met the watchmaker who'd just arrived from Switzerland. After 2 years of watchmaking school in Zurich he had the urge to travel, fulfill his dream of coming to the U.S. Before watchmaking school he was a kitchen worker in 5 star hotels, spending his evenings at other 5 stars hotel bars and waiting for wealthy women among the clientele to fall in love with him.
- Did they really fall in love with him?
- I guess. The job he was promised by a Beverly Hills watch boutique was no longer available and he was hanging out at the Beverly Canon Gardens. He cried when I gave him the book I was reading, "The Gift".
- What's the book about?
- In a way it is about monopoly too. Giving and receiving, in its customary form creates a group. A group is enclosed, access to the group is limited to its members. Those outside the group do not benefit from the stability of gift making and receiving. They are under the constant threat of violence. This book the watchmaker cried over receiving from me compares the gift economy to the market economy. Gifts create community, ties of gratitude and obligation, because giving is done without expectation of direct return. Return comes sooner or later because the community is closed and if you stay in, and everyone gives gifts, you'll come in for your share of receiving. In the market economy individuals are isolated from each other both before and after the transaction, and in the transaction itself their interests in the transaction are opposed. The buyer wants to pay the lowest price and get the most, the seller wants to receive the highest price and give the least. The book is a good summary of this argument, first made by anthropologists a century ago, otherwise it's not very good.
- Why not?
- The aforementioned gratitude and obligation. When gifts create community by such mysterious emotions individuals are, in actual fact, tied to the easily visible manners and habits of the community. The mystery comes in because people forget themselves when they make a gift, when they "sacrifice" themselves. The community that results from gift giving is ritualistic. And because it is ritualistic, it is closed.
- Aren't all communities closed?
- No. Remember I told you about William Godwin? The founder of the philosophy of anarchism?*** He said that people should give away everything they couldn't use, but nobody could demand a gift from you. They had to convince you with arguments. Unlike communities of gift giving where people are tied to each other by the mysteries of gratitude and obligation, and while they sacrifice, the real reasons they make gifts, the taboos and mores of their society - go unobserved, gifts ought to be made for a reason,
- What reason?
- For love.
- Which is a mystery.
- Only when it is not really love. Love is based on knowledge. It is the opposite of enclosure. It is an opening up out of the world into all, out towards everything all together. This is not the time to go into this. The idea is that as we don't want to hold onto things for no purpose, giving is no sacrifice. We want to love. To love, we have to know what is good to love.
- How do we know what is good to love?
- Natural predisposition adapted by experience. We learn. We can tell a story of what we did with our gifts. We lose ourselves in love, not in the gift giving. Ok?
- Ok.
- We can love everyone we find some good in, who reveals to us their good. Community is open.  Not so, as I said, community based on gifts of mysterious gratitude and obligation. The habits of the group limit who can give and receive. Such a group is a monopoly.
- That's what you meant about your wife, not missing being with her, but missing her company. You didn't miss being in her group.
- Yes. At the campus yesterday there was a conference on Digital Cash. I'm wearing their T-shirt under my shirt.
- You bought it?
- No. A gift. The two day conference was one short lecture after another, each a summary account of research into the modern business of digital money. What many of the stories had in common was monopoly. For example, the credit card companies Visa and MasterCard had invited one of the speakers to an expert workshop to solve an obvious and ominous security threat..His small company, with a staff of three, was paid millions. A dozen other, much larger companies worked on the problem with him. They came up with several viable solutions.
- To what problem?
- Stores were holding the credit card numbers of each of their customers. Break into an individual's email and you can steal one account number. Break into a large retailer and you can steal millions.
- Like the 70 million cards numbers stolen from Target a few months ago.
- Ways were worked out by the lecturer and his colleagues so stores could process transactions without retaining the card numbers. They all got paid. Yet.the credit card companies decided to take no action. Why? The security expert said he hadn't the slightest idea. At lunch I pressed him. He must know why they decided to do nothing. Off the record now, tell me. Was it because they were a monopoly, and any major change they made meant risk of losing profit, and doing nothing they could safely pass the costs of fraud on to their customers who couldn't take their business elsewhere?
- What did he say?
- He said yes, that was why. Early on he and many others worked on micro-payment technology so individual authors could get paid every time someone on the internet clicked on their texts. No one was interested. The micro-payment technology however soon appeared in a different form: advertisers pay for every single click on their ads and all the profit goes to Google. Another speaker had researched the history of money transfer services. The first, American Express, was started by the former director of Western Union telegraph service. American Express had to send their new travelers checks through the postal service, which took days or weeks, because the monopoly telegraph service was much too expensive even for American Express's wealthy travelers. Then followed a lecture on Pay Pal, the first successful internet money transfer service. They were blocked from the market by the banks that for decades had researched telephone based electronic money transfer. Paypal's only immediate market access was Ebay, a peer to peer auction selling service the credit card companies for a while had declined giving permission to accept their cards.
- I didn't know any of this.
- Monopoly is everywhere, and not only in business. Let's go over it again. Monopolies appear in relations between people in the form of class. A group of people with their particular rituals, habits and taboos call forth in each other feelings of gratitude and obligation. A sort of "honor among thieves" creates a gift economy among class members, while a market economy, clash of interests, operates between classes. Within a class there is a gift economy. Between classes is a sort of war, or as it is called, market economy, war expressed in the exchange of possessions. Everyone within a class is, to some extent at least, a beneficiary of gift economy. A member of a rich family very seldom ends up like the tens of thousands in L.A. sleeping on the street.**** The Starbucks guy making himself a gift of Starbucks coffee is seen by Starbucks employees as rich, which he is. He is silently tolerated by the Starbucks employees who represent the interests and intentions of the wealthy management class, and they don't have to worry the exception will encourage poor people, who know very well how classes are treated differently, to play the same trick. The most interesting lecture at Digital Cash was on the food stamps program, now digitalized. Working with special debit cards (EBT, Electronic Benefit Transfer) the digitalized program allows complete supervision of its recipients and control over what could be bought and where it could be bought, compared to unemployment benefits, also digitalized, that in California is given as an unhindered direct deposit to private bank account. Unemployment benefits are often ten times as much as a typical monthly food stamps benefit, as the boyfriend of the conference organizer told me who received this electronic benefit transfer himself, being an often unemployed artist in the film industry. Gifts, gratitude and obligation account for the attraction of the idea of the market state, the continuous mystical flow of money. Within the group, a individual with the right background can temporarily be a cul de sac for money, but a gift will take care of the problem. Someone however from outside the group, a welfare or food stamp recipient, is thought to be permanently out of the loop, Gifts to that kind of person are money thrown out the window. Thus the supervision, suspicion, and contempt inherent in the food stamps program but absent from unemployment benefits. I was telling the newly graduated watchmaker these stories of the UCLA conference at the Luvalle commons cafe, not far from where the lectures had be held. He'd asked if he could come along with me to my usual places. In the square down from the cafe, in front of the Law School, a party was going on. Alumni get together for the School Of Public Affairs, a couple of students told us. We went along by, and within seconds a security guard ran across the grass to position himself before us on the walkway:
- You can't pass here.
- This is a public square in a public university.
- You must have a wristband. Private party.
- In a public square in a public university. Move aside.
- No. Go back.
- What authority do you have for giving that order?
- Not your business. I'm telling you: go back.
- I won't. Now what? Are you going to push me back? I'll defend myself against your push.
- Then I will fall to the ground, say you assaulted me.
- Fine. Let's skip preliminaries, just lay yourself down and we'll get on with it. Call your boss.
- No.
- Your boss's coming.
- What's the problem here?
- This rented symbol of violence is blocking our passage. Tell him to move aside.
- Step aside.
"I'm shocked," the watchmaker said to me. "I thought things like that happened only in movies. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. I thought it was comedy, exaggeration of American life." All too real, I answered. And the outcome was fortunate, not to be relied on. Confrontations with power don't usually end well.
- No excuse to be afraid.
- I'm with you there. Last week they blocked off this square to hold a wedding party complete with jazz band and private security on every corner. The privatization of public places in public universities is a modern version of the enclosure movement in England that peaked from 1760 to 1832 and completely the destroyed the medieval peasant community. Traditional rights to mow or graze on "open fields" were revoked. Once enclosed, the use of land was restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be land for commons. Enclosure was accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, or by passing laws forcing enclosure.
- History repeating itself.
- You know Robin Hood? Sure, you couldn't help knowing. The legend can be seen as a response to the English enclosure movement. When I was leaving that UCLA Conference on Digital Cash I stopped to talk to a man waiting outside who seemed out of place. Turns out he was from Finland and the CEO of The Robin Hood Asset Management Fund.***** Considering speculative investment a form of robbery, he and his partners, professors of art, philosophy and economy, allow the poor access to the rich man's game of financial speculation. The poor can share in the spoils with a mere 50 dollar minimum investment, payment by internet, of course. Robin Hood Asset Management has opened an office in Santa Cruz and are readying an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in a bid to raise funds for rapid expansion. I left the CEO with my site address and email. Pleased by my stories he wrote right back, passed me on to the director of Robin Hood's American Office, who also expressed liking for my stories. I'm pretty sure nothing will come of the connection..
- Be optimistic.
- Yes, like with the reappeared Swedish old love. Santa Cruz! Did I tell you I wrote two novels about her? Every time I meet someone in real life communication is transferred to the internet where it stays never to reemerge in real life. Everyone disappears in the bottomless pit of the internet, is enclosed within that gift community of infinite flow. Real life is learning how to escape from enclosure and not remain trapped within the group that gift giving creates. Real life. How hard it is to make a start.
- As they say, get out of the box.
- One of the last speakers at the conference studied communities of oppressed minorities in their relation to the internet. He said he hated when internet communities were called "virtual", as in "unreal". They were real, he insisted. For example, a woman with an incapacitating disease confining her to her home was able to practice her former profession of clothing designer in the internet world of Second Life. People called Second Life a game, but how was what this woman did, her creative activity of making clothing, adapted to the constraint of a programmed character, "avatar" animation, how was this "unreal"? Do you know what I answered?
- What?
- She was making art like any other artist. But art, any art, is not real. Good art, the best art, is a tool for reminding us how to get out of the world of things and back into the world of love. It reminds us to love. If this woman's art did that, if it got other players of the game out of the game, didn't keep them enclosed in the virtual world, then I have no problem with saying it is real. Every art, every profession, comes up against the same problem. The digital world is not unique. I was going to tell the obstructive security guard if he needed someone to represent him in his lawsuit against the university and me I had the phone number of a law professor at the law school on the other side of the square. I'd recently had a long conversation with her. I like talking to lawyers. Only yesterday I was at the law conference on Critical Theory And Race, something like that. Being white, according to the explanation a law professor (not the same one) there gave me, was a form of property, like a house or car. I asked the professor, who claimed also to be a philosopher:
- If you don't define property what good is saying race is property too? One confused thing is compared to another.
- By the comparison with material inequality that many actually experience, the mental reality of racial inequality can more easily be imagined.
- Yes, and you lawyers help the poor people, manipulate a wrongheaded at best if not actually insane legal system based on property to their advantage, this one time. Why not actually figure out what property is and figure out what to do about it? What about being real philosophers and revolutionaries?
- Who does that? Do you know?
- Robin Hood.
- Of course.
- A revolutionary if there ever was one.
- And where will I find the real philosopher? The real philosophy?
- Look on the internet, everything ends up there. Good luck getting something back out.

Further Reading:
Slavery
The Technology Of Good
The Crowd Of Monopolists
The Search For Evil
How The Internet Can Change The Way The World Does Business
_________________
Rimbaud, "Genie"
** Married To The Business Of Buying
*** Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Morals And Happiness
**** 'Once you’re in the club, you’ve got a God-given right to stay in the club.' See The Disadvantages Of An Elite Education. (The author of "The Gift" taught writing at Harvard.)
***** The Robin Hood Fund (RHF)