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Archive for the ‘society’ Category

Merleau-Ponty and Philosophy of Race by Emily S. Lee

In philosophy, society on October 19, 2015 at 02:25

From: Merleau-Ponty and Philosophy of Race by Emily S. Lee, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Maurice Merleau-Ponty did not write much on race; he only mentioned it once, as far as I know, in his article, “The Child’s Relation with Others”. In these post-colonial times, it is recognized that one of the tools of colonialism is its epistemic hegemony—defining knowledge on the semblance of originating or affiliating with the northwest. Under such circumstances, as a philosopher whose primary research questions focus on race and feminist philosophy, my concentration on the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and weaving his work with the questions concerning race and sex needs some explanation.

Edmund Husserl inaugurated phenomenology: upon recognizing the phenomenal structure of the world, Husserl endeavored to eliminate the ambiguity entailed by the phenomenological structure, and aimed to achieve certainty about the world, following Rene Descartes in prioritizing certainty. But rather than aim for certainty, Merleau-Ponty accepted that being-in-the-world entailed ambiguity. He addressed the phenomenological framework’s epistemic and ontologic consequences. Marrying Husserl’s phenomenology with gestalt theory, Merleau-Ponty acknowledged that the “most basic unit of experience is that of figure-on-a-background,” anything simpler reflects mere mental projections. Human experience of the world cannot reduce experience to solely a unit, a figure, or a totality.[1] The background or horizon in which one is situated, and where one is situated within the horizon, conditions what and how one perceives. Therefore an optimal relation—spatially and temporally–must exist between the theme and its horizon for perception of the theme.[2]

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

VIDEO: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

In education, politics, society, technology on October 19, 2015 at 02:19

From: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Documentary Network, http://documentary.net

Watch the film at http://documentary.net/video/internets-boy-story-aaron-swartz/

The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet.

But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

Film by Brian Knappenberger – Luminant Media

Reposted with permission from: The Documentary Network

Ecological Cooperation in South Asia by Saleem H. Ali

In Asia, politics, society on October 19, 2015 at 02:16

From: Ecological Cooperation in South Asia: The Way Forward by Saleem H. Ali, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

The greatest loss of human life and economic damage suffered by South Asia since 2001 has not been due to terrorism and its ensuing conflicts but rather due to natural disasters, ranging from the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the Indus floods of 2010 to seasonal water shortages and drought. Although such calamities themselves might not be preventable, their human impact can certainly be mitigated.

The most consequential ecological features in South Asia are the Himalayas and the rivers that are largely derived from their geography. Some of the worst territorial disputes in the region also span these mountains. Hence, scientific and sociocultural research on mountain ecosystems is likely to play a pivotal role in galvanizing regional cooperation and reaping peace dividends.

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Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

The Gift of Death by George Monbiot

In politics, society, sociology on August 4, 2015 at 20:26

From: The Gift of Death by George Monbiot, http://www.monbiot.com

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production(2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

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Reposted with permission from: George Monbiot

The urban paradox by Tom Cowan

In politics, society, sociology on July 24, 2015 at 05:42

From:  The urban paradox by Tom Cowan, openDemocracy, https://www.opendemocracy.net

In the current conjuncture, cities are sites of two counterposed tendencies. First, the city is upheld as the physical metonym of modernity, the unsurpassable form of human progress, wherein any manner of economic, social and environmental ills may be treated—where non-people become people, where technology and smartness come to govern political and social contestations, where human resilience and innovation (no matter how destitute such humans may be) can mitigate the oppressive character of capital-led urban growth. Against and yet within this, largely neo-liberal, imagination exists the global trend of urban retraction, of bordering, segregation, fragmentation, state withdrawal, enclave-ing. The traditional model of urban entrepreneurialism which David Harvey discussed in the 1980s is today optimised from particular, mostly elite fragments of accumulation, (the mega-event, the gated community, the mall, etc.) marginalising entire populations, entire ways of thinking and being deemed obsolete. These are two contradictory arms of neoliberal urbanism.

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Reposted with permission from: openDemocracy

Radical Hospitality by Danya Lagos

In philosophy, politics, society, sociology on March 24, 2015 at 19:51

From: Radical Hospitality by Danya Lagos, Hypocrite Reader, http://www.hypocritereader.com

Hospitality, or the art of welcoming and caring for others, must be rescued from its current entanglement in stratification and alienation. Today’s approach to hospitality invites people into a hosting paradigm that emphasizes the host’s ability to provide “whole,” “fresh,” “slow,” and “local” food experiences. This school of entertainment emphasizes the artisanal, the crafted, and the shared enjoyment of these as an extension of the host’s character and ethical standing. It nods towards feel-good liberal politics with a concern over GMO labeling, fair trade (!!!) products, and a kinder, gentler way of slaughtering animals for our consumption. We have created entire industries devoted to certifications of all sorts, to verify precisely how humanely that leg of lamb was slaughtered, precisely how kosher the cheese is, and precisely how genetically unmodified those lentils are. Under this new technology of hospitality, the host is no longer one whose primary concern is to invite and attend to the other. The host has become a producer and hoarder of cultural capital, and guests have become mere instruments in this venture—even if they often serve as critics or evaluators. Large, open gatherings are increasingly replaced by smaller, rarer, highly exclusive dinner parties. Guests are carefully selected, excluded, and engaged. At best, they are partners in a cultural wealth-generating exchange. At worst, they are excluded altogether from our kitchens and dining rooms if they cannot contribute to or be willing, passive, assenting consumers of this performance of class.

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Reposted with permission from: Hypocrite Reader

Here’s to being here by Lars Mensel

In philosophy, photography, society, technology on March 24, 2015 at 19:41

From: Here’s to being here by Lars Mensel, The European, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The staggering number of smartphone images is of course due to the omnipresence of camera-enabled phones. A popular saying among photographers goes: “The best camera is the one you have with you”, and so the increased number of photos and videos is simply true to the fact that people can easily reach for a camera whenever the opportunity presents itself. It is also due to the emergence of what writer Craig Mod has dubbed “networked lenses” – smartphone cameras that allow for instantaneous sharing with the world. They have enabled a willingness on many peoples’ parts to always keep cameras rolling. In the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote about how this trend is changing our experience of reality. “Life is footage”, he remarks.

Which brings us back to the smoke-filled cabin of Welch’s flight. What does it mean that his first impulse was to start documenting? As the examples show, constantly filming and taking photos is a development many people have noticed and discussed. But the reactions have been all too predictable: They are often a call to be more mindful in the face of technological progress, to consciously make room for the analogue world in a digital time

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Reposted with permission from: The European

Rebelling against the neoliberal university by Andrew Stones

In education, Europe, society, universities on March 24, 2015 at 19:28

From: Rebelling against the neoliberal university by Andrew Stones, ‘cafébabel’, http://www.cafebabel.co.uk

Higher education across Europe is becoming increasingly marketised. Universities are becoming centres for profit rather than education. Recent events at universities in England and the Netherlands have shown that students are trying to push back against this tide of bureaucracy and unaccountability.

Two scenes of student activism in the UK – in 2012, at the height of Occupy Wall Street, a group of students at the University of Warwick in England stage their own occupy protest on the lawn of the university’s Senate House. A tent is erected and several academics from almost every department agree to speak on subjects ranging from Marxism to poetry.

The response from the university’s security staff is a mixture of a strange paternalism and bafflement – they drink tea in their polyester uniforms, unsure of what is really happening or what their job supposedly is. Fast-forward two years – a similar group of students are sitting in the foyer of the same building, quietly discussing a national demonstration held earlier that day. The same security staff arrive in specially modified vehicles with sirens and hi-vis paint jobs; they explain the police have been called for a separate incident so no one is that alarmed. Seconds later the police do come – only it’s unclear what they want as they immediately start pushing the students, spraying OC gas in their faces and holding tasers above their heads.

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Reposted with permission from: ‘cafébabel’

The Japanese Way of Silence and Seclusion by Elisheva A. Perelman

In Asia, mythology, society on January 11, 2015 at 06:00

From: The Japanese Way of Silence and Seclusion: Memes of Imperial Women by Elisheva A. Perelman, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

With the sun metaphor, though she herself would disavow it, Hiratsuka recalled the origination myths of Japan, and the birth of the sun goddess Amaterasu, from whom Japan’s imperial household was purported to be descended. In Amaterasu’s origin, the relationship of men with women—both in the physical and spiritual sense—was shaped. The story of Amaterasu and her progenitors, Izanagi and Izanami, as an origin myth and a heuristic device, is far more complex than an obvious feminist manifesto. The tale of Amaterasu and Izanami, her “mother”, as conveyed by the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest extant chronicle, presents a legitimising meme of the subjugation of women, and of women’s attempts to circumvent subjugation; and this meme occurs not only within Japan’s origination myths, but also in far more modern iterations among Amaterasu’s current putative descendants.

Neither Amaterasu nor Izanami emerge from their stories unscathed. At the beginning of the Kojiki, following a commentary by the compiler, we are confronted by the primal void, which appears in so many origin myths, and from that void emerge Japan’s progenitrix deities, Izanagi and Izanami, male and female, respectively. The pair is tasked with creation, which is first undertaken through a rather pragmatic and perfunctory attempt at intercourse. While the actual, physical coupling seems to be fairly by the book, the postcoital utterance by Izanami ruins the encounter, forcing a miscarriage of form. It is Izanagi’s privilege to speak first, but Izanami, whether out of ignorance or excitement, blurts out her satisfaction with the partnering. Women are often charged with ruining aspects of origination myths—Eve and the apple, Pandora and the box—and Izanami falls into this trap. Her brother-spouse orders her silence after their next attempt, allowing him the first words following their union, and she complies with his command. It is his right to pronounce the union satisfactory first, whereupon Izanami is allowed to echo his sentiment. After all, when she was the first to speak, the offspring produced are, essentially, aborted, abandoned to the void. Izanami’s initiating speech is a miscarriage, a breakdown; her echo, a success. She complies, and, by choosing to hold her tongue, Izanami has been silenced, both by her partner and, in her acquiescence, by herself.

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Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

How We Punish People for Being Poor by Rebecca Vallas

In community, economy, human rights, North America, society on October 13, 2014 at 23:10

From: How We Punish People for Being Poor by Rebecca Vallas, Common Dreams, http://www.commondreams.org

In what seems a reprisal of the predatory practices that led up to the subprime mortgage crisis, low-income individuals are being sold auto loans at twice the actual value of the car, with interest rates as high as 29 percent. They can end up with monthly payments of $500—more than most of the borrowers spend on food in a month, and certainly more than most can realistically afford. Many dealers appear in essence to be setting up low-income borrowers to fail.

Dealers are also making use of a new collection tool called a “starter-interrupter device” that allows them not only to track a borrower’s movements through GPS, but to shut off a car with the tap of a smartphone—which many dealers do even just one or two days after a borrower misses a payment. One Nevada woman describes the terrifying experience of having her car shut off while driving on the freeway. And repossession of their cars is far from the end of the line for many borrowers; they can be chased for months and even years afterward to pay down the remainder of the loan.

Also worth noting is the criminalization of poverty and the high costs that result. In a nationwide trend documented by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, a growing number of states and cities have laws on the books that may seem neutral—prohibiting activities such as sidewalk-sitting, public urination, and “aggressive panhandling”—but which really target the homeless. (The classic Anatole France quote comes to mind: “The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”)

Arresting a homeless person for public urination when there are no public bathroom facilities is not only a poor use of law enforcement resources, it also sets in motion a vicious cycle: The arrested individual will be unable to afford bail, as well as any fees levied as punishment, and nonpayment of those fees may then land him back in jail.

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Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

Linking the Living and the Dead by Paul Koudounaris

In anthropology, religion, society, sociology, South America on July 30, 2014 at 16:57

From: Linking the Living and the Dead: Skull Worship in Bolivia by Paul Koudounaris, United Academics, www.united-academics.org

In a corner of the interrogation room of the homicide division at the police headquarters in El Alto, the largest barrio of La Paz, Bolivia, two skulls sit in plexiglass cases on a table top. Respectively known as Juanito and Juanita, the latter has been kept in the room for over thirty years, while the former has been there for perhaps a century. They are not evidence in some unsolved murder, however, nor are they reminders of some grisly local slaying. Instead, they are there to solve crimes, the same as the detectives who use the room to question suspects. While it might seem unlikely that these silent crania can provide much assistance in criminal investigations, they are credited by Colonel Fausto Tellez, a retired commander of the department, with helping to solve hundreds of cases during his tenure. He even refers to Juanito as “longest-serving officer on the force.”
Identically dressed in knit caps and wide-band sunglasses, Juanito and Juanita are surrounded on the table top by various offerings. These include coca leaves, cigarettes, votive candles, and candy, all left by officers in thanks for services rendered. On difficult cases, homicide detectives traditionally write requests for information on slips of paper, which are placed in the shrines of the skulls. If need be, prayers may also be offered to the pair. Tellez estimates that the use of the skulls cuts investigative time in half, and notes that they also assist in interrogations. “They are brought in during the questioning of difficult people,” he explains, “and even if they want to lie, they cannot if the skulls are present. When the skulls are involved, people always tell the truth.”
To an outsider, this all sounds at the least unusual, if not downright bizarre, but it is not so here. Juanito and Juanita are ñatitas — the term literally means“the little pug-nosed ones,” but specifically refers to human skulls which house souls of the deceased, and act as protectors, helpers, and intercessors for the iving. While the veneration of these crania is little known outside Bolivia, within the country, and particularly in La Paz, their powers are renowned. Juanito and Juanita are merely two of thousands of similar skulls, found in homes or offices, their shrines familiar enough to be quotidian. Here, high up in the Andes, where traditional belief systems were never fully eradicated by European colonization, the ñatitas provide a unique insight into the bond
between the living and the dead.
Not every human skull is a ñatita. Those so designated are ones which have been adopted by individuals, families, or groups, who then perform rituals to honor the soul housed within the skull. The ñatita, then, is not simply the skull, but rather the  combination of the skull and a spirit which uses the skull as a locus, and provides various forms of supernatural assistance for its benefactors. Treated as close friends or family members, many ñatitas are passed down over several generations — it is not uncommon to find people who report that a skull has been with their family for many decades. In some cases, such as that of Juanito in the homicide division of the El Alto police office, a ñatita’s history of service may stretch back an entire century.

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Reposted with permission from: United Academics

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges

In biology, education, government, history, philosophy, politics, society on June 16, 2014 at 14:51

Featured: American Socrates by Chris Hedges, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

Noam Chomsky speaks to the media at a friend’s house in Amman, Jordan, in 2010. (AP/Nader Daoud)

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Noam Chomsky, whom I interviewed last Thursday at his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has influenced intellectuals in the United States and abroad in incalculable ways. His explications of empire, mass propaganda, the hypocrisy and pliability of the liberal class and the failings of academics, as well as the way language is used as a mask by the power elite to prevent us from seeing reality, make him the most important intellectual in the country. The force of his intellect, which is combined with a ferocious independence, terrifies the corporate state—which is why the commercial media and much of the academic establishment treat him as a pariah. He is the Socrates of our time.

 

 

We live in a bleak moment in human history. And Chomsky begins from this reality. He quoted the late Ernst Mayr, a leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century who argued that we probably will never encounter intelligent extraterrestrials because higher life forms render themselves extinct in a relatively short time.

“Mayr argued that the adaptive value of what is called ‘higher intelligence’ is very low,” Chomsky said. “Beetles and bacteria are much more adaptive than humans. We will find out if it is better to be smart than stupid. We may be a biological error, using the 100,000 years which Mayr gives [as] the life expectancy of a species to destroy ourselves and many other life forms on the planet.”

Climate change “may doom us all, and not in the distant future,” Chomsky said. “It may overwhelm everything. This is the first time in human history that we have the capacity to destroy the conditions for decent survival. It is already happening. Look at species destruction. It is estimated to be at about the level of 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth, ended the period of the dinosaurs and wiped out a huge number of species. It is the same level today. And we are the asteroid. If anyone could see us from outer space they would be astonished. There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations—the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.”

If Mayr was right, we are at the tail end of a binge, accelerated by the Industrial Revolution, that is about to drive us over a cliff environmentally and economically. A looming breakdown, in Chomsky’s eyes, offers us opportunity as well as danger. He has warned repeatedly that if we are to adapt and survive we must overthrow the corporate power elite through mass movements and return power to autonomous collectives that are focused on sustaining communities rather than exploiting them. Appealing to the established institutions and mechanisms of power will not work.

“We can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “The Industrial Revolution took off right around here in eastern Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system. Men and women—women left the farms to be ‘factory girls’—bitterly resented it. This was also a period of a very free press, the freest in the history of the country. There were a wide variety of journals. When you read them they are pretty fascinating. The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings being forced into what they called ‘wage labor,’ which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact this was such a popular mood it was a slogan of the Republican Party—‘The only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for the wage is supposed to be temporary.’ ”

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How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Workplace Friendships by Maria Popova

In art, ethics, philosophy, society on June 16, 2014 at 13:55

From: How to Navigate the Murky Waters of Workplace Friendships: Wisdom from Adam Smith and Aristotle by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

Vernon, who echoes Rilke’s memorable words and notes that “the value of asking about friendship lies in the asking, not necessarily in coming to any incontestable conclusions,” argues that one of the defining characteristics of friendship is its inherent ambiguity — unlike social institutions of belonging like marriage or the workplace, it doesn’t operate by clear social norms or contractually defined roles, it comes with “no predetermined instructions for assembly or project for growth.” In fact, it can’t even be automatically derived from within these other social contracts — a marriage, Vernon notes, may or may not foster true friendship, and even more so a workplace. He laments:

Is not mistaking relationships for what they are not — that is being blind to their ambiguity — arguably the greatest cause of disappointment and failure? … The corollary of friendship’s ambiguity is that it is packed with promise and strewn with perils.

That ambiguity gets especially perilous, Vernon argues, at work, where our relationships with colleagues may take the guise of friendship but are ultimately shaped by other forces — forces that often have an implicit power dynamic. It’s a modern predicament especially poignant in our culture where “productivity often counts for more than perspicacity, the professional touch more than the personal touch, being praised more than being praiseworthy.” What this produces is an air of “pseudo-intimacy” between colleagues, whose relationships, at the very core, are premised on their usefulness to one another. That utilitarian basis, Vernon argues, is the “fundamental source of the ambiguity of many friendships at work”:

People’s utility at work extends way beyond just being a welcome distraction or even performing a role or a function. It goes to the heart of the working environment, underpinning why people are there at all. They work to do something, for a client, for a team, for a boss. And work is not without one key utility to the employee, namely, the paycheck. Ideally the work is rewarding, doubly so when there’s a sense of achieving something with friends. And if you receive what you believe you are due that generates friendly feeling too.

One of the trickiest workplace “friendships” is that between a boss and her employee, where there is an implicit imbalance of power, money, and status. Vernon turns to Aristotle, perhaps our civilization’s greatest philosopher of friendship, who divided such relationships into two parts — contractual, based on the terms of employment and the respective expectations regarding responsibility, time, and compensation, and goodwill, “the human bit of the working relationship, or the extent to which you’re prepared to gift your talents free of charge to the boss.”

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Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck

In government, literature, philosophy, politics, science, science fiction, sexuality, society, sociology, writers on May 18, 2014 at 08:24

From: Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, and Our Scientific Regime by Matthew J. Franck, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

 

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustapha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

But an even more telling comparison can be made — that Brave New World is a modern counterpart to the “city in speech” built by Socrates and his young interlocutors in Plato’s Republic. Whether Huxley saw the similarities himself is far from clear. In neither the “Foreword” added to the 1946 edition nor his lengthy 1958 essay Brave New World Revisited, which is published together with the novel in some editions, does he indicate any consciousness of a parallel. Nor do his Complete Essays (published 2000 – 2002) shed light on this. His biographer Murray mentions no such connection in Huxley’s mind either; nor does his earlier biographer Sybille Bedford. Yet it may not be necessary to confirm any precise authorial intention on Huxley’s part to imitate Plato. Whereas Huxley’s other novels are largely forgotten today by the general public, and his later visits to the themes of Brave New World are those of a crank whose imaginative gifts have deserted him, in writing his greatest work he seems to have been in the grip of an idea larger than himself. Plato’s Socrates tells us in the Apology that when he “went to the poets” to “ask them thoroughly what they meant” in their greatest poems, he found to his surprise that “almost everyone present, so to speak, would have spoken better than the poets did about the poetry that they themselves had made.” For as Socrates said (not without some biting irony) in Plato’s Ion, “all the good epic poets speak all their fine poems not from art but by being inspired and possessed, and it is the same for the good lyric poets.” Perhaps during the mere four months it took Huxley to write Brave New World, he was “possessed” in this way and remained forever unconscious of his debt to Plato.

In its political teaching, the Republic is as much a dystopian poem as is Brave New World. With every step in his radical project of instituting uncompromisingly perfect justice — from the noble lie, to the abolition of the family among the guardians, to the eugenics program that brushes aside the incest taboo with a wave of the hand, to the impossible proposal that the city be ruled by philosophers, to the absurd suggestion that the city be founded by exiling all of an existing city’s residents over ten years of age — Socrates reveals humanity’s inability to overcome the limits that our nature imposes. We love the good, but we also love what is our own. Nature draws us toward other particular persons whom we embrace and love as our own; it gets in the way of our commitment to the collective good of the community, which has, in the best case, its own just yet conflicting demands on our love. Nature, or nature’s God, has made us embodied souls, or ensouled bodies. We can live neither wholly for others nor wholly for ourselves, and this is no less true for the philosopher than for others. The project of perfect justice in which each of us is a “cell in the social body” is not within our grasp.

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Reposted with permission: The New Atlantis

Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood

In art, economics, economy, information, politics, society, sociology on May 18, 2014 at 07:59

From: Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Now it becomes easy to see how love translates to economic terms as a union based in mutual debt. When the debt is paid off or called in, the union dissolves. And now that pretty much everyone is in debt, love abounds! Professionals are moving back in with their parents, people are returning home to their countries to depend on their extended families, contracts are increasingly backed by personal relationships, and even the values of goods and currencies are backed less by bonds and legal tender and more by the trust and intimacy that gives them their character. Shared associations and affinities expressed over communication lines produce pockets of enormous value in an otherwise lonely ocean of random data streams. Musicians record reams of songs without ever thinking about wanting a record contract from major labels that are still struggling to understand how to make money off computer files.

Love is the most recently introduced member in the family of inflation and bloat. It is a burst of fresh air fed straight into the bubble. It gives the Ponzi scheme at least another decade before people start to think about cashing out. Remember when you would run out of time and replace that with energy? Push a little harder and move a little faster and you can trick time, because darling you’re a superhero. But when you run out of time and energy alike, you run into a problem. You need help. You need support. You need love and a bit of tenderness. Now, with the help of others, you can feed the machine again.

Without time and energy of your own, love is the conduit through which you extract the time and energy of others. You then start to take the shape of that loving conduit. But you have also become a professional lover—or a diabolically good flirt. You are a kind of Marilyn Monroe or Don Juan in the labor of other Marilyns and Dons. This arrangement actually makes for a beautifully collective endeavor so long as you can stay beautiful, tender, and kind to your lovers, and so long as they stay that way to you. This tenderness is a force of resynchronization. Maybe it is a new kind of force altogether. Maybe it is love time. Let’s inhale and exhale together.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

The Ethics of Suicide by John Danaher

In ethics, philosophy, religion, society, sociology on May 18, 2014 at 07:39

From: The Ethics of Suicide: A Framework by John Danaher, IEET, http://ieet.org

A. The Competency Question: Was the person mentally competent and sufficient rational and self-governing to be responsible for the act of self-killing?

I think this is possibly the most important question. In many cases, the default assumption is that the person who commits suicide lacks mental competency or rationality. Indeed, the act of killing oneself is often taken to be conclusive evidence of this. People don’t accept that the reasons typically stated for suicide (feelings of hopelessness etc.) can be embraced by the rational mind. That this is the default assumption seems to be proven by the fact that people only accept the rationality of suicide in certain extreme cases, e.g. terminal illness, self-sacrifice to a greater good. The thought of a rational, fully competent adult, who faces nothing more than the ordinary slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, ending their lives is too much countenance. Such an individual must be mentally or rationally deficient.

I’m not entirely convinced by this default assumption. This is for two reasons. First, it’s not clear to me that, say, a nihilistic worldview which holds that all lives are meaningless and devoid of hope, is all that irrational. To be clear, I don’t accept this worldview and I have argued against it in the past. Nevertheless, it doesn’t strike me as being significantly more irrational other philosophical commitments that we are we don’t judge in the same way (say: moral anti-realism or epistemic internalism). If a person can competently and rationally embrace those views, why can’t they competently and rationally embrace nihilism?

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Architecture & the merits of being a generalist

In architecture, Europe, society on May 3, 2014 at 01:10

From: Architecture & the merits of being a generalist: “Very few people connect the dots” by Lars Mensel with Reinier de Graaf, The European, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

de Graaf: Architecture is a very hermetic profession. So subjects that are very marginal in the world of architecture are often mainstream in the real world. Architecture is excellent at ignoring things that are important and instead focuses on things that are ultimately footnotes. We aggressively try to do the opposite.

The European: For instance?
de Graaf: In the 1970s, Rem Koolhaas focused on New York City. At the time, “metropolis” was a dirty word in the European architectural debate. We looked at the emergence of cities in China – which was a very unfashionable thing to do– or the expansion of shopping. The amount of square meters of shopping spaces that are being constructed throughout the world exceeds almost everything else. They are constructed without any architectural attention – and yet a whole lot gets built. Architecture, by focussing on things that might be small, beautiful and culturally accepted, contributes less and less to the built environment and instead retreats into a voluntary marginalization.

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Reposted with permission from: The European

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Letters to Slavoj Žižek

In Europe, performing arts, philosophy, politics, society on May 3, 2014 at 00:57

From: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s Prison Letters to Slavoj Žižek by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Slavoj Žižek, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

Dear Nadezhda,

I was so pleasantly surprised when your letter arrived – the delay made me fear that the authorities would prevent our communication. I was deeply honoured, flattered even, by my appearance in your dream.

You are right to question the idea that the “experts” close to power are competent to make decisions. Experts are, by definition, servants of those in power: they don’t really think, they just apply their knowledge to the problems defined by those in power (how to bring back stability? how to squash protests?). So are today’s capitalists, the so-called financial wizards, really experts? Are they not just stupid babies playing with our money and our fate? I remember a cruel joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be. When asked about the German concentration camps in occupied Poland, the Nazi officer snaps back: “We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping.” Does the same not hold for the Enron bankruptcy in 2002? The thousands of employees who lost their jobs were certainly exposed to risk, but with no true choice – for them the risk was like blind fate. But those who did have insight into the risks, and the ability to intervene (the top managers), minimised their risks by cashing in their stocks before the bankruptcy. So it is true that we live in a society of risky choices, but some people (the managers) do the choosing, while others (the common people) do the risking.

For me, the true task of radical emancipatory movements is not just to shake things out of their complacent inertia, but to change the very co-ordinates of social reality so that, when things return to normal, there will be a new, more satisfying, “apollonian statics”. And, even more crucially, how does today’s global capitalism enter this scheme?

The Deleuzian philosopher Brian Massumi tells how capitalism has already overcome the logic of totalising normality and adopted the logic of erratic excess: “The more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normality starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening is part of capitalism’s dynamic.”

But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations? So please, if you can and want, do let me know about your situation in prison: about your daily rhythm, about the little private rituals that make it easier to survive, about how much time you have to read and write, about how other prisoners and guards treat you, about your contact with your child … true heroism resides in these seemingly small ways of organising one’s life in order to survive in crazy times without losing dignity.

With love, respect and admiration, my thoughts are with you!

Slavoj

Read the letters

Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

Aokigahara by Tony Mckenna

In anthropology, Asia, community, society, sociology on April 3, 2014 at 23:57

From: Aokigahara: A place where people come to end their lives by Tony Mckenna, Adbusters, https://www.adbusters.org

For you are in Aokigahara — and Aokigahara is a place where people come to end their lives. It is estimated that one hundred people die here each year. The ribbons are a precaution; if the person who is contemplating suicide changes their mind at the last moment, he or she will be able to find their way back to the world of the living once more. Ribbons are required because compasses simply don’t function in this place. Something about the iron concentration in the ground interferes with them — though inevitably, such naturalistic explanation has been superseded by all types of supernatural ones; the forest is so spooky and still, it is hard not to infer the ghostly presence of all the souls that have perished here.

… The more modern modes of suicide are, therefore, an expression of alienation; if anything, the act of killing oneself in a group allows the alienated individual to experience a single, ultimate act of ‘purpose’ through a level of social integration which the uncertainty and fragmentation of modern existence has denied them. If the excess of internalized ‘shafu’ provides an impetus toward suicide, its lack can also provide a singular drive toward self-immolation. Among the new generation in Japan today, it is the depth and intensity of isolation, of alienation, which more and more allows them to heed the Suicide Forest’s siren calls.

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Reposted with permission from: Adbusters

How Do We Change The World? with Rob Riemen

In ethics, humanities, philosophy, society, sociology, world on March 25, 2014 at 03:47

From: How Do We Change The World? A Conversation with Rob Riemen by Rose Mary Salum, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

RMS: At one point during the symposium, you posed the question to your panel: “What do you see as scandalous in contemporary society?” And I wondered, what is scandalous to you?

RR: There are many scandals, but the greatest scandal in rich Western society is the destruction of education and culture by the ruling class: the organized stupidity. And of course, that is in the interest of the ruling class, as which products would still be bought, which programs still watched on television, which politicians would still be elected if people were just a little bit more wise?

RMS: You once told me: “We have given up the notion that there are universal values. These are all complex things, and they have political consequences.” Was this round of conferences intended to recover those universal values?

RR: … I want to create a space where the tradition of European humanism is kept alive and transmitted to anybody who realizes that without universal spiritual values and the great cultural legacy that makes us aware of these values, there cannot be a civilized society in which everybody has the possibility to live his life in truth, to do justice, and to create beauty. And as long as I have the energy and the means to continue this work, I’ll do it as my modest contribution to “changing the world”.

Read the interview

Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

The becoming-girl of the Virgin Mary by Em McAvan

In gender, philosophy, religion, society on March 25, 2014 at 03:22

From: The becoming-girl of the Virgin Mary by Em McAvan, Rhizomes: Issue 22, http://www.rhizomes.net

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

“difference is monstrous” (Gilles Deleuze, Repetition and Difference, 37)

[1] To study religion with Gilles Deleuze is to already be involved in a contradiction of sorts. The dominant theological traditions of Christianity have been metaphysical enterprises grounded in a transcendent being (God), who guarantees all life and all meaning. This is the onto-theological argument, fairly succinctly formulated by Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica where he says that the name of God “signifies being itself.” God “is who he is” (as the Christian gloss on Exodus goes), he is pure being itself. Indeed, Aquinas goes so far as to state that “God is pure act without any potentiality whatsoever” (quoted in Kearney The God Who May Be, 83). In contrast to the hegemonic Christian tradition, Deleuze formulates a critique of “the order of God” (Logic of Sense, 332), preferring immanence to transcendence and the radical unpredictability of becoming. He writes approvingly of Nietzsche’s Antichrist, who is “characterized by the death of God, the destruction of the world, the dissolution of the person, the disintegration of bodies, and the shifting function of language which now expresses only intensities” (Logic of Sense, 334).

[2] It is difficult to recuperate Deleuze for a thoroughly orthodox project. However, Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the rhizome – which gives this journal its name – already makes clear the necessity of connecting his work with disparate, unlikely disciplines, transforming each in the process. Daniel W. Smith points out that Deleuze can be best understood as post-religious, since he “harbors neither the antagonism of the ‘secular’ who find the concept of God outmoded, nor the angst or mourning of those for whom the loss of God was crisis-provoking, nor the faith of those who would like to retrieve the concept in a new form” (“The Doctrine of Univocity,” 167). Deleuze provides us neither with a master key for religion nor an outside from which to critique, instead he provides an occasion for transmutation, for becoming—the becoming-Deleuzian of religion and the becoming-religious of Deleuze. As we can see in work over the last decade in Mary Bryden’s collection Deleuze and Religion, in feminist process theologian Catherine Keller’s Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming, and in the work of deconstructionist John D. Caputo, the encounter between Deleuzian thought and religion can be a fruitful one. In this essay, I will connect Deleuze with religion in another way, connecting his work on becoming-girl and repetition with the archetypal figure of a girl, the Virgin Mary. I will argue that, paradoxically, Mary becomes a girl after the Event of the birth of Christ, and that this particular movement is repeated in the faithful/faithless folds of the Virgin’s image found in various situations.

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Reposted with permission from: Rhizomes

The Bachelor Century by Jon Rich

In civilisation, ethics, Europe, government, history, North America, politics, religion, society, war, world on March 2, 2014 at 21:07

From: The Bachelor Century: Single Sinners Seeking God’s Job by Jon Rich, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Since the sixteenth century, writing has aspired towards permanence. That horrific century brought a succession of powers, churches, popes, writers, politicians, and artists who made attempts at immortality by making their marks on the rocks of time. The Catholic Church has remained tenaciously faithful, in a sense, to the fifteenth century. The Church’s guards, popes, teachings, sermons, and its Bible have been the center of attention since Michelangelo finished his marvelous works at the Sistine Chapel. As is the case with other holy books, the Bible is a hymnal. Its hymns are recited and sung in the same fashion as the hymns found in other holy books. The fact that the Bible is a hymnal means that there’s a strong tendency, which has remained strong for centuries, to convert it from the written to the oral realm. In the latter realm, it is no longer simply a book, a physical artifact that will fall victim to the deleterious effects of light and humidity, but an invocation that unites all, regardless of their faith. The recitation and the sound of bells are meant to be familiar even to heretics and infidels. This phenomenon finds a perfect match in other holy books like the Torah and the Quran. Religions have, since the beginning, sought to make the word of God familiar and approachable. People who treated divine texts as primarily written words became priests, irrespective of their vocational inclination: infidels, heretics, atheists, priests, or theologians. Voltaire is no less priestly than St. Augustine.

Let’s go back briefly to Nietzsche to remind ourselves that collective human memory—what makes us human—is activated by pain and suffering. To oversimplify Nietzsche, we could say that our collective memory has privileged reactive thinking as a tool of evolution. A man who likes a woman for purely physical reasons is ready to reproduce with her but calls this attraction love. This reactive thinking extends to food, sleep, comfort, sport, work, and achievement. In fact, this sense of urgency to react is directly connected to scarcity. When we read Joseph’s story in the Torah, or the Quran, or The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe, we are taken by the pain and joy of very specific people. For these people to invest so much effort into finding their better halves elevates love to a universal human value.

With the supremacy of television and the ubiquity of the internet, this elevation of love becomes nearly impossible. No woman is a man’s better half and no death is pure and final on TV. Television recycles better halves infinitely, giving them new names, new bodies, and new faces. It also portrays death and suffering in myriad ways, creating a variety that impels us to admire and be entertained by it. This bombardment by images of horror leaves little room in one’s heart for a tinge of discomfort, like the one Lionel Messi might feel upon missing a shot on goal.

All of this was impossible to predict before the events of the Arab Spring. It has become clear, with the abundance of images of death and bloodshed coming out of Syria in the past two years, that death itself has become incapable of pushing us, even for a tiny moment, to think about the death of an individual. More deaths will follow, and staying up to date with them will mean having no time for sorrow, and certainly no time to mourn.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

Rethinking Drug Policy Assumptions by Jefferson M. Fish

In government, law, North America, politics, society on January 25, 2014 at 23:34

From: Rethinking Drug Policy Assumptions by Jefferson M. Fish, The Humanist, http://thehumanist.org

The so-called war on drugs has lasted more than four decades and increasing numbers of people are convinced that it is not only unwinnable but also misguided. From foreign policy to domestic policy to drug treatment, U.S. drug policy has been based on inaccurate assumptions and incorrect causal models that have led to an ever-escalating failure. The attempt here is to identify some of the principal errors, point out their shortcomings, and offer more plausible assumptions and models in their stead. These alternatives point not simply to downsizing the war and decriminalizing marijuana, as voters in Colorado and Washington State recently did, but to ending the war on drugs altogether by considering a range of legalization options.

Current U.S. policy is based on the assumption that drugs cause crime, corruption, and disease. Hence, we label and ban some substances as “dangerous drugs.” It follows that bad people supply these drugs, so we lock them up, but the supply keeps getting through. Engagement between police and criminal suppliers ramps up, leading only to more crime, corruption, and disease at home, while the battle spreads around the world.

It looks as if the more we clamp down, the worse the problem gets. Up until now the response has been not to question the underlying assumption, but to further escalate the war, hoping the right side will eventually achieve victory. There seems to be no consideration of the possibility that it’s the policy itself that’s making matters worse.

Here’s an alternative causal model, one that actually explains the failure of our longstanding policy: drug prohibition—that is, the war on drugs—causes an illegal, or black market, which in turn causes crime, corruption, and disease. With this model, the goal of drug policy should be to attack the black market instead of attacking drugs because the market undermines the stability of friendly countries (witness Colombia and Mexico) and finances our enemies (al-Qaeda and the Taliban, for example). Attempts to suppress the black market by force merely spread it, from one country to another or, in response to local police crackdowns, from one neighborhood to another.

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Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

A Mass Media Cure for Auschwitz by Henry Krips

In government, media, philosophy, politics, society, sociology, theory on January 20, 2014 at 17:13

From: A Mass Media Cure for Auschwitz : Adorno, Kafka and Žižek by Henry Krips, International Journal of Žižek Studies, http://zizekstudies.org

In today’s regulated world of mass media corporations, what space is left for a radical politics? From the theoretical perspectives of most contemporary work in cultural studies, the answer seems to be “not much.” For example, according to the classic Frankfurt School position, the mass media serve the politically conservative end of spreading ideological lies: telling us that the government bureaucracies and private corporations that control our daily lives know best and care personally for each and every one of us (Adorno and Horkheimer, 2002).

In order for these lies to be effective, however, it is not enough that they are encoded at the level of message content – after all, in today’s cynical climate few people fully trust what they are told in newspapers or see on television. How, then, can the mass media ensure that the lies that they circulate have an impact upon their audience; what, in any case, is the nature of that impact? The Frankfurt School answer (as represented, for example, in the early work of Theodor Adorno) is that a mass media presentation has two methods of encoding ideological lies: (1) it encodes the lies denotatively, at the level of its content, or (2) it encodes them connotatively, at the more abstract level of technique or form of presentation (Barthes, 1985: 111-117). Consider a familiar example: a full page magazine advertisement that places an image of a bottle of perfume next to an image of a beautiful woman who is photographed while she is staring
seductively into the camera. The advertisement encodes a message denotatively about the perfume’s power to make its wearer attractive. But also, because the woman appears to look at us directly, as if she knew us personally, a meta-message is encoded connotatively into the form of presentation: “Hey you there, this message is for you!” Furthermore, and here is the key point, even though we know that the latter message is a lie, it has an impact upon us – each of us feels, and to a certain extent acts as if through the ad she or he is being addressed personally.1 Adorno argues that it is in exactly this way, namely through their forms of presentation, that mass media presentations propagate ideological lies.

For example, advertisements, newscasts, talk shows and so on all typically engage their audience through such personal forms of address. By singling out each member of the audience for public recognition of a personal kind, this form of address contributes to the ideological lie at the heart of the liberal state, namely that it knows about and cares for each and every one of us individually (Goehr, xix-xx). And because the lie is encoded at the level of form rather than content, despite its transparency it sneaks under the audience’s critical radar and affects what they do. It general terms, we may conclude, even if mass media presentations are politically radical in their content, thanks to their form of presentation their overall impact will fall on the conservative side of the political ledger.

In The Sublime Object of Ideology Slavoj Žižek argues for a similar conclusion, but in the context of rather different theoretical premises (Žižek, 1989: 28-33). He argues that the totalitarian conditions in which we live today create a perverse split between knowledge and action: we know very well the terrible things that are going on around us, but even so – perhaps because we can’t do anything about them, or perhaps because we feel immune to their effects – we act as if we are ignorant. Like ostriches recognizing danger, we collectively stick our heads in the sand. It seems to follow that mass media exposées – or indeed any techniques of consciousness-raising – will be useless as radical political strategies for getting people to act differently. To put the argument in a nutshell: if, as Žižek claims, people don’t act on what they know then broadcasting the truth to them will make no political difference.

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Reposted with permission from: International Journal of Žižek Studies

A Tale of Two Decades by James F. Warren

In Asia, government, history, politics, society on January 12, 2014 at 01:25

From: A Tale of Two Decades: Typhoons and Floods, Manila and the Provinces, and the Marcos Years by James F. Warren, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

In the second half of the twentieth century, typhoon-triggered floods affected all sectors of society in the Philippines, but none more so than the urban poor, particularly the esteros-dwellers or shanty-town inhabitants, residing in the low-lying locales of Manila and a number of other cities on Luzon and the Visayas. The growing number of post-war urban poor in Manila, Cebu City and elsewhere, was largely due to the policy repercussions of rapid economic growth and impoverishment under the military-led Marcos regime.1 At this time in the early 1970s, rural poverty and environmental devastation increased rapidly, and on a hitherto unknown scale in the Philippines. Widespread corruption, crony capitalism and deforesting the archipelago caused large-scale forced migration, homelessness and a radically skewed distribution of income and assets that continued to favour elite interests.2

Marginal urban enclave of Siteo Baseco, Tondo.

… There was a cruel contradiction, albeit irony, between the generally clean, quiet and orderly atmosphere proclaimed in travel guides, tour advertisements and billboards, depicting Manila as a global city where economic progress went hand in hand with the developing social reality of a burgeoning rural-urban migrant population. Many of the globe-trotting tourists and overseas executives visiting the city’s business district were not fully aware of the scope and rate of the adverse changes that were taking place in Manila, as the metropolis rapidly grew and poor people struggled to cope with its consequences. But the government-sponsored promotion of the remarkable transformation of the city, from a previously alarming and deteriorating place to a vibrant, expanding metropole proved a cruel illusion—a false dream—for the tens of thousands of squatters confronting the problem of a lack of housing and related health impacts, in one of the third world’s fastest growing cities. Most of the comfortably-housed wealthy locals and foreign visitors rarely went anywhere near the burgeoning slum quarters of the city. But Makati’s tree-lined avenues and glass-lined skyscrapers cast shadows across the makeshift houses of squatters from rural areas living at overcrowded addresses that did not appear in information provided on recommended tours and general guide maps. The migrants from the provinces threatened with homelessness dwelled out of sight of the path of the capital’s crushing progress, but they lived within its interstices and in vulnerable areas; low-lying neighbourhoods often sited directly in the path of typhoons and prone to flooding.

… Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos did not only use the productive character of ‘power’ to restrict social and individual possibilities. They produced new strategies and techniques of social control, through the development of their vice-like regulation and management of disaster relief and, correspondingly, new social and political capacities in the individuals threatened by the typhoons and floods.52 Kenneth Hewitt argues in interpreting the role of hazards in third-world societies that if the main purpose of government and scholars is to bring aid to the needy after calamity has struck then it is clear that these disaster-mitigation responses were not working properly, and they were making matters worse in the Philippines of the 1970s and mid-1980s. These failings were generated by preoccupations of the Marcos government that were political-economic, agency centred and selectively, communal-centric. There was no need to question whether this was a deliberate moral or technical choice; rather it was a simple but necessary side effect of partisan political and institutional arrangements. It is the meaning and implication of these arrangements as they bear upon the interpretation of risk and responsibility for damages and disaster relief—but also, more importantly, in relation to ‘who eats and who does not’—with which Hewitt is concerned.53 Clearly, the Marcos administration derived a dual benefit from the destruction and deprivation wrought by the typhoons and floods: the value of the resources they controlled became inflated in a political and material sense, and they also controlled the force necessary to either expand and protect, or deny, the support of redistributable resources and aid.54

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Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

Featured: Conviviality by Paul Walton

In Book Reviews, Featured, history, politics, psychology, review, society, sociology, technology, writers on December 26, 2013 at 14:41

Paul Walton is a journalist, editor and autodidact from Nanaimo most interested in literature and depth psychology.

Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

Featured: Ivan Illich: Tools For Conviviality by Paul Walton

Forty years after the publication of that cantankersome and challenging book by Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality has never been more inaccessible and never more vital.

There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Illich, and even after an interview series on the CBC in the late 1980s (later to be published as Ivan Ilich in Conversation by David Cayley, published by House of Anansi, 1992) anyone could be forgiven for remembering Illich, who died in 2002, as a man of the mind, a thinker, a philosophe, even a genius. This last perhaps comes closest if we recall the word djinn, a “tutelary spirit,” as the OED puts it. Tools For Conviviality might be termed in educational jargon “gifted,” well beyond its years, but it is more like a happy child who longs to share its joy.

This look at Tools For Conviviality began on a computer and taking a cue from Illich in the Cayley interviews migrated to a yellow pad and black pen. Writing by hand highlights a duality arising from Tools For Conviviality, The qualities of pen and paper include intimacy, a private moment of reflection and, if done well, humility. We can use tools on a human scale or be dehumanized by them. Composing on a computer makes demands very different from script, from posture to adjusting the eye to the glow of the electric monitor. The computer is also tentative, with constant attention to the save function and usurping what Illich later relished in In the Vineyard of the Text, about the 12th century abbot Hugh of St. Victor, who tasted the words during peripatetic readings in his garden.

Tools For Conviviality is arguably as close to a political prescription or ideology as Illich ever got. To Cayley he admitted that the essence of the book, the idea of inverting tools as abused by post-industrial interests, didn’t happen as he expected in 1973 — a dramatic Wall Street-style crash — but began to occur ways he did not anticipate. By 1988, he told Cayley, he was seeing more people recovering misused tools, i.e. resuming mastery over them for their own purposes.

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Extended Interview with Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall by Amy Goodman

In human rights, nature, politics, society, video on December 26, 2013 at 13:22

From: Extended Interview with Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

Watch the full interview with Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva at the recent International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit, where they discussed their decades of work devoted to protecting nature and saving future generations from the dangers of climate change. A renowned primatologist, Goodall is best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons. An environmental leader, feminist and thinker, Shiva is the author of many books, including “Making Peace with the Earth: Beyond Resource, Land and Food Wars” and “Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.” 
GUESTS
 
Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons.
 
Vandana Shiva, environmental leader and thinker from India. She is the author of many books, including Making Peace with the Earth: Beyond Resource, Land and Food Wars and Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.


Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

How Do We Care For Future People? by J. Hughes

In biology, ethics, humanities, medicine, religion, society, theory on December 9, 2013 at 19:45

From: How Do We Care For Future People?
 Buddhist and Jain Ideas for Reproductive Ethics by J. Hughes, IEET, http://ieet.org

Link to Part 1, Link to Part 2, Link to Part 3

Many questions in contemporary bioethics turn on views about the nature of personhood and which creatures possess it. Christians and many other faiths believe that humans, and only humans, possess a supernatural soul that confers moral significance, that they possess it from conception to death, and that it is not capable of evolution or improvement. Modern secular bioethics, on the other hand, focuses on the emergence and dissolution of a psychological self dependent on the brain. For secular bioethics humans share elements of this psychological self with other animals, the self changes throughout the life course, and it is open to improvement through the use of science and technology. Jainism and Buddhism stand between these views on the self and humanity in ways that can contribute to contemporary bioethical thought.

Buddhism and Jainism can connect with and illuminate contemporary bioethics around a shared belief in an evolutionary trajectory and moral continuity from animal to human to posthuman.

* Buddhism and Jainism differ radically in how they connect with bioethical debates on personhood, with Jains adopting substance dualism and Buddhists closer to neuroscientific reductionism.

* Liberal Buddhists and Jains could, however, set aside literal interpretations of ensoulment and adopt a materialist, neuroscientific view of ensoulment that would permit some abortion and distinguishes between the karma incurred from harming different kinds of animals.

* While some secular bioethicists believe it is permissible to genetically enhance humans and animals, and Abrahamic faiths generally oppose genetic enhancement, Jains and Buddhists would use virtue consequentialism to judge genetic enhancements, approving of those that give future generations maximal opportunity for spiritual growth, meaning not only that enhancement for health and cognitive ability might be obligatory, but also enhancement for moral and spiritual traits.

* Jains and Buddhists are more open to the radical optimism of the Enlightenment that we may transcend our humanness.

Read the articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Reposted with permission from: IEET

 

The Over-Policing of America by Chase Madar

In ethics, government, law, North America, politics, society on December 9, 2013 at 19:32

From: The Over-Policing of America: Police Overkill Has Entered the DNA of Social Policy by Chase Madar, TomDispatch, http://www.tomdispatch.com

Sometimes a single story has a way of standing in for everything you need to know. In the case of the up-arming, up-armoring, and militarization of police forces across the country, there is such a story. Not the police, mind you, but the campus cops at Ohio State University now possess an MRAP; that is, a $500,000, 18-ton, mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle of a sort used in the Afghan War and, as Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post reported, built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments.” Sounds like just the thing for bouts of binge drinking and post-football-game shenanigans.

Office and retail work might seem like an unpromising growth area for police and prosecutors, but criminal law has found its way into the white-collar workplace, too. Just ask Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state employee targeted by a federal prosecutor for the “crime” of incorrectly processing a travel agency’s bid for state business. She spent four months in a federal prison before being sprung by a federal court. Or Judy Wilkinson, hauled away in handcuffs by an undercover cop for serving mimosas without a license to the customers in her bridal shop. Or George Norris, sentenced to 17 months in prison for selling orchids without the proper paperwork to an undercover federal agent.

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Reposted with permission from: TomDispatch

The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller

In classics, education, Europe, politics, society, world on December 4, 2013 at 21:00

From: The Dangers of Totalitarianism by Agnes Heller, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

How did our education become so market-oriented?

It happened in the last half-century. Education became market-oriented in two senses. Educational institutions behaved as institutions of the market. They became a market. They were producing young people for certain kinds of professions and young people took a kind of profession in order to get a better salary and a better position. And that’s all wrong, and it’s wrong even from the standpoint of technology, even from the standpoint of physics, chemistry. Because if you teach young people Physics, or Chemistry, which is actually the leading branch in science, the moment they finish school, it won’t be important anymore for these branches of science. But if you learn something general, universal; if you learn higher Mathematics, higher Physics, Greek or Latin language or Logic and Philosophy; all these capacities or abilities to argue and think in abstract notions, to think logically, to concentrate and to contemplate and to memorize; you’ve learned everything that you can actually use later on. It is not specialized subject matter, but you can use it all.

How do you see the 21st century? Is it going to get better or worse?

I don’t see the 21st century, we are at the beginning of it. Think, at the beginning of the 20th century, think about 1912, whether you could have forseen what was going to happen in 1914 or 1933, or 1942. It was impossible. So I think that at the present moment, right now, 2012, one hundred years after 1912, we cannot possibly know what is going to happen in our century. We can only hope it will be better, that it will be far better than the 20th century. If you have in mind this conflict between democracy and totalitarism, especially in Europe, between republicanism and bonapartism, which is a European conflict from the beginning of modernity, in this situation, in this conflict, you have to take the position of republicanism, of democracy, against bonapartism or totalitarian government. And the danger of totalitarianism is not gone; the danger is always present in the modern world, because it is a modern political institution. It was totally wrong when people believed that totalitarianism was something from the Middle Ages, or something reactionary. It is absolutely not the case. It is as modern as democracy. And that is why, in a modern world, you have to face the danger that there can be a war. And so basically, we have to change the world in order to prevent the world from embracing again different kinds of forms of bonapartism or totalitarian movements in States.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

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