Sunday, April 19, 2015

War

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zizek At Strabucks

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

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

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

- How? I just arrived here.

- On Youtube.

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

- Are you speaking at UCLA?

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

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

- What's this?

- My writing.

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

- I am. Maybe see you later.

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

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

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

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

- Then what?

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

- It's from Lacan.

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

- And you don't like the terminology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

- That's right.

- Then I understand.

- My problem with Zizek?

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

- Is Zizek my "other"?

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

- Why would he if we agree on everything?

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

- Not bad. Congratulations.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Place For Themselves In Other People's Places

Image result for starbucks

(Starbucks Coffee, Westwood Village, Open 24 hours)

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Test Of A Man

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Infinite Is Bigger Than Yours

1.

On Two New Sciences, Galileo,1638:

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

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




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

Simplicio: It cannot be denied.

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

Simplicio: Entirely correct.

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

Simplicio: What is to be our conclusion?

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


2.

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

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Something To Look Forward To



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

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Right To Property

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

see Property Is Silence

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Property, Greed, And The Bible

I. PROPERTY



1.

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


2.

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

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


II. GREED



1.

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

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

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

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

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

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


2.

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


III. ABEL IS MORE ABLE



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

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

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

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

Further Reading:
Eve In The Garden Of Eden

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.