Archive for January, 2009

Preface to The Wretched of the Earth

January 30, 2009

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote these bits in 1961:

The European elite undertook to manufacture a native elite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western Culture; they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed.

We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.

Advertisements

Darwin vs. Capitalism

January 26, 2009

I went to the Philosopher’s Café tonight at Cafe Kathmandu on Commercial Drive. The topic was “Empiricism and the State of Evolutionary Biology in an Age of Faith-Based Fundamentalism.” It was a discussion about ways of knowing that pitted the knowledge of science against the knowledge of God. The discussion is never-ending. Listening tonight, hearing the old familiar lines, it occurred to me that maybe the church isn’t the obstacle to enlightenment it’s made out to be. Over the past 150 years the values of Capitalism have replaced the values, however similar, of the church. So I asked the question: “Can it be a fluke that children are in the capitalist state run school system from the ages of 5 to 17 and at the end of those twelve years have no understanding whatsoever of their material reality?” The way I see it, Darwin’s Origin of the Species is a revolutionary work, and a true understanding by the population would change the world. What’s so scary about evolution?

This Café was part of the Vancouver Evolution Festival.

The idea that both religion and capitalism might have a stake in keeping quiet the notion that free and uncontrolled variation, the variation that makes evolution possible, has been considered. Check this out: from Jihad vs. McWorld:

To the extent that either McWorld or Jihad has a NATURAL politics, it has turned out to be more of an antipolitics. For McWorld, it is the antipolitics of globalism: bureaucratic, technocratic, and meritocratic, focused (as Marx predicted it would be) on the administration of things—with people, however, among the chief things to be administered. In its politico-economic imperatives McWorld has been guided by laissez-faire market principles that privilege efficiency, productivity, and beneficence at the expense of civic liberty and self-government.

For Jihad, the antipolitics of tribalization has been explicitly antidemocratic: one-party dictatorship, government by military junta, theocratic fundamentalism—often associated with a version of the Fuhrerprinzip that empowers an individual to rule on behalf of a people. Even the government of India, struggling for decades to model democracy for a people who will soon number a billion, longs for great leaders; and for every Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, or Rajiv Gandhi taken from them by zealous assassins, the Indians appear to seek a replacement who will deliver them from the lengthy travail of their freedom.

Freedom not power

January 26, 2009

[This was a facebook note]

Watching the Chicago 8 trial documentary I was struck by the forced conformity. There was a very large group of Americans who were expressing a different way of being. The point is that a social dialogue about social change was in play, and the state mobilized its armed forces to silence the peaceful movement for change. It became apparent that conformity is the only option. Sure we are free to live within the parameters of the system, and sure those parameters are quite broad and loose, but we are not free to change the system. We can try to change the system, but there is a power at work that will fight you all the way to your bedroom. (Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton’s bedroom. ( http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhamptonF.htm ))

A distinction needs to be made between freedom and power. That I have health and nutrition, social and manual skills, and access to credit means I can exercise most of my charter rights and freedoms, but this is a “power to exercise” granted by the system. I am bound to this system or powerless. Now, begrudging this dependence is seen as selfish and ungrateful. I should be grateful for the power given me. And if I were a selfish individuated person with no desire to be social, maybe I would revel in the power that is mine, but I do desire to be social, so like the Chicago 8, I speak out against the hierarchal systems that condition the social. I speak out against, to name a few, the family, the state, colonialism, the military, capitalism.

I’m not content to live under a capitalist state system that grants more personal power to the individuated agents of its middle class than it allows in the colonies. I’m not fascist, I want freedom not power. This system, where we work beyond the necessary for a profit while others starve, needs to be considered.

When we fear human nature, we fear freedom, because freedom is social self-determination, freedom is the opposite of external controls. Restrictions impede freedom. Restrictions impede human development. That a material necessity exists, that there are material limits to freedom, shouldn’t be reason enough to accept these social limits to freedom. We can do better than this.

John Barth Beresford at 1:04pm January 27

Every damn day we’re changing the system but it’s gonna take years decades to notice. I’m not interested in too much change in one noticeable gulp. It would be perceived as a mass hallucination that would terrorize the happy, undermine the progressive, and make all the powers that be even more powerful. So go about your good deeds quietly and keep up the good work! Thanks for your support and cooperation Rodger X.

Rodger Levesque at 6:39pm February 1

Was it your plan to enrage me? Was it some flippant move, like aiming for the chest in air hockey? Or maybe putting on a Nashville hockey jersey? Were you trying to antagonize me?

Rodger Levesque at 6:42pm February 1

Luckily I thought it through before responding like Dan Ackroyd on SNL “John, you ignorant slut.”

Rodger Levesque at 7:00pm February 1

You know I’ve never been much of an activist. Have you seen “Into the Wild”? I recognize that rage and frustration. Activism drove me nuts, and then journalism wasn’t much better. Hey have you ever read my blog? (Don’t worry about it. No one reads it. Who could? It’s a ridiculous expression of complete confusion. But…) Something I’ve been writing about speaks to what you wrote. The blog is called “Not Left To Chance” and it gets its name from a line about education being socialization that isn’t left to chance. I liked that, not the cynicism of it, but the reality. When you write that “we’re changing the system” like by some sort of chance one day the system will be something other than it is. But the system is reproduced by command and control. Our socialization hasn’t been left to chance. We’re conditioned by the system to reproduce it. Have you ever seen A Clockwork Orange? After Alex has been reconditioned, the thought of violence incapacitates him.

Rodger Levesque at 7:01pm February 1

What thought incapacitates you? That’s the thought you need to put into action if you want to change the system.

John Barth Beresford at 10:33pm February 2

You express such optimism to began and then complete resignation to finish. If you can’t see a positve result, why pitch it happening at all? You’ve already decided you won’t make a difference. That’s alright, that way you won’t be disappointed by hope and perhaps might even be pleasantly surprised by a change you never expected to make.That’s some pretty serious resocialization you’re talking about and besides Alex at the end pulls off another fast one, it’s suggested with raised eyebrows. He’s all about ego-based will, anarchism. I’m saying the more anonymous your approach and the more random per-chance your focus, as opposed to your obessed ‘incapaciting thought,’ the more effective your result for a greater number of people in a freer self-empowering way.

Finally, yes, I was saying if you think more that way, if you observe and follow, ironically you’ll be defining yourself as an individual.

becoming woman

January 20, 2009

From Deleuze and Guattari:

Sexuality is the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings. Sexuality proceeds by way of the becoming-woman of the man and the becoming-animal of the human: an emission of particles. (ATP p278)

As Faulkner said, to avoid ending up a fascist there was no other choice than to become-black. (ATP p292)) note: See William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust (New York: Vintage, 1948), p.216. Speaking of Southern whites after the Civil War (not only the poor but also the old monied families), Faulkner writes, “We are in the position of the German after 1933 who had no other alternative but to be a Nazi or a Jew.”

Here’s a quote taken from the Arcades Project:

“What! Because a woman would rather not take the public into her confidence concerning her feelings as a woman; because from among the men who would lavish their attentions upon her, only she could say which one she prefers — is she then to become the slave to one man? What! In such cases a woman is exploited. For if she were not afraid of seeing them tear themselves to pieces, she could give satisfaction to several men at once in their love. I believe in the need for a freedom without limits, a freedom founded on mystery, which for me is the basis of the new morality.” Claire Demar, Ma Loi d’avenir (Paris, 1834), pp. 31-32

The moment freedom is realized, in Spartacus is the moment it is given up:

“Do you realize… nobody can ever sell you again? Nobody can sell you or give you away. Nobody can ever make you stay with anybody.

I love you, Spartacus. I love you.

I still can’t believe it.

Forbid me ever to leave you.

I do forbid you. I forbid you”

From Chaia Heller‘s The Ecology of Everyday Life:

From the Declaration of Interdependence (1989):

“It is our belief that man’s domination over nature parallels the subjugation of women in many societies, denying them sovereignty over their lives and bodies. Until all societies truly value women and the environment, their joint degradation will continue…Women’s views on economic justice, human rights, reproduction and the achievement of peace must be heard at local, national, and international forums, wherever policies are made that could affect the future of life on earth. Partnership among all peoples is essential for the survival of the planet.”

From Google News:

Muslim Khan, the militants’ spokesman, said they would not allow any girls’ schools to operate until the army withdraws from the valley and Islamic law is imposed. “These schools are being run under a system introduced by the British and promote obscenity and vulgarity in society,” Khan told AP by telephone from an undisclosed location. Khan said a system of girls education would be developed in line with the teaching of Islam.

What’s up doc?

January 1, 2009

Paul Cezanne  via The Revolutionary Carrot

The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.

This is modified Marcuse from The Essential Marcuse:

The awareness of the transcendent possibilities of freedom must become a driving power in the consciousness and the imagination which prepare the soil for this revolutionary carrot.