Archive for November, 2010

Dialogue on Belief

November 27, 2010

This essay was the starting point.

¨belief occurs between the recognition of alterity and the establishment of a contract. It disappears if one of the two terms weakens. belief no longer exists when difference is effaced by a process tending to equalise the partners and give them a mutual mastery of the contract; it no longer exists when difference becomes excessive through a breach of the pact.¨

no.1: so… the contract dissolves according to the development of dialogue ? co-operation? so belief is always in crisis because it is representative of an in-between space but is the expression of positioning?

no.2: Belief in what? In the relationship between “partners”?

The temporality of “belief” in that passage is puzzling. A contract is either established or it isn’t. As such, the establishment of a contract would seem to cancel “belief.”

me: In the quote belief exists in inequality. The grandest beneficiary of belief is God, the absolute authority and most unequal of relationships.

It’s not the contract that dissolves with co-operation, but belief; belief in general.

This idea is puzzling because we no longer relate outside capitalism. There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.

In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange. The other is not known, it is belief that allows us to proceed without knowing.

When we give to a friend we know, there is no expectation of return.

When we expect a return from an other, we can only believe. Getting to know the other replaces belief.

I think Nietzsche said something like that. [ “Here the ways of men divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.” – Nietzsche ]

so I hope belief is temporary, for the sake of democracy, equality and justice.

no.2: This seems a little quaint, no?: “There was a time when friends lived together as equals, out of this arose the notion of democracy. The equality necessary for living happily together defined a household. In equality you know your friend.” …

E.g., slavery, which preceded capitalism (and was practiced to some extent by the Haida Indians of the Pacific Northwest).

“In capitalism all relationships become a form of exchange.”

This overstates things, rather.

me: no. It doesn’t seem quaint to me. There was a momentary practice out of which the idea of democracy was born. That practice is gone. The idea of democracy in capitalist practice is confused. Property relations are not equal.

And I don’t think you can overstate the damage done and being done by capitalist ideology and practice.

no.3: Please name a time/country/system when we were all equals and friends, Rodger.

Democracy has never in fact happened and this stand in we are under only causes harm. (People should stop saying Communism only brings corruption and dictatorship since neither idea has really been properly tried and Communism only given a fraction of the chance).

Justice is a confusing term that no one understands and which has always been used as a bull flag to whip public sentiment toward supporting atrocity.

I don’t think the comments are “quaint”, they just don’t make any sense.

me: @no.3 Come on.

Look, no.2 was puzzled by the temporal quality of belief. Why is this puzzling. What word doesn’t possess a temporal quality?

What I suggested is that capitalist ideology might be the cause of this confusion. It might also be the source of your understanding, and questions. Capitalist ideology tends to totality. Your statement that Democracy has never in fact happened is correct only if democracy need be total.

So no I can’t point to a historical moment of total democracy. But neither can you point to a total fascism, there was resistance. What I can point to, and it’s noted in Aristotle’s Ethics, is a time when friends would live together in Greek households, not all households were democratic, and not everyone in a household was equal, but the practice of equals managing household affairs gave rise to the concept of democracy.

You can actually tonight practice democracy in your own home. The practice of democracy has existed and can be practiced tonight in small spaces. If totality is the prerequisite for change, we might as well give up on the notion right now.

But change can be incremental. Have you heard of the theory of evolution?

no.3:‎ “But neither can you point to a total fascism”. I wouldn’t try.

I wouldn’t make sweeping statements about “justice”, “democracy” or “equality”, either. None of us really know what those things mean and they only ever cause harm.

me: I’d argue that it’s not knowing what justice, equality and justice mean that is both the cause and effect of said harms
no.3: I wouldn’t. Those words are meant to be bull flags and distractions. Let’s admit that they are that and only that so we can get at the issues.
– end –

some notes on GAI Pride

November 22, 2010

The headline reads:

To end poverty, guarantee everyone in Canada $20,000 a year.

It goes on to ask if we are willing to trust the poor. I ask if the headline writers are willing to go fuck themselves.

I want to start a discussion about a Guaranteed Annual Income. Ending poverty is a necessary step toward strengthening our democracy. I usually say we don’t live in a democracy, because Canadian democracy is so weak, the term shouldn’t be used. It would be more accurate to call our form of state an oligarchy.

But the question should we trust the poor, reveals economic inequality, in practical terms. Words like equality and justice are mere abstractions in a state where poverty exists. What exactly are we trusting the poor to do, or not do, if they were given the means to feed themselves and protect themselves from the weather? What about the working poor who could them tell their exploitive employers to go fuck themselves? Are we to trust that this will happen or are we trusting that a completely oppressed and marginalized group when freed from a state of complete lack will continue to be silent? What about parents? Would  GAI end daycare worries? Would the end of daycare worries, bring up achievement levels in schools? Would it increase community involvement? This idea has great social potential.

What surprises me, is that this idea is getting the play in the media that it is. I guess it’s being played as a bad idea. And playing to the given idea that people deserve their station and the idea that if people want money they should get a job.

Get a job? This is 2010. Technological advances in production processes have cut the number of people needed to make all this stuff that keeps the economy… that sentence died in conception. The economy suck. But technological advance and human leisure. These were the ideas driving progress. The big idea that one day we wouldn’t have to work as hard. Turns out that’s not been the case. It also turns out poverty is still a problem. What do you say we start a war on poverty. According to experts, $20,000 guaranteed ought to do it.

I’m all for it. How about you?

Here’s a post (and here) about GAI. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Response to education article

November 15, 2010

This is a great article. But doesn’t it in a way blame teachers? In the sense that the responsibility for change is placed on teachers.

Capitalist practices are not going to change, the exploitation of children, families, society and government, (willingness does not render null exploitation) by capitalist practices are “what is”. We are living in a world driven by exploitive/capitalist ideology and practice. This practice needs (our/my practice needs) to change, or it will continue, but who is going to change it?

Governments are willing accomplices, their ideology, the basis of their decisions is capitalist. Capitalists are not going to willingly change. Families are isolated, overworked, willingly following along to keep their children fed. Society is organized by capitalist practices. Children are learning to be part of the system that is currently limiting and exploiting them, learning that this is the world.

Teachers are complicit in the demise of our school. You can’t be neutral on a moving train. If you know what is happening is wrong, and you continue to do it, in the hope that someone else will fix the policy that drives you to perform less than adequately for the needs of developing children, then while you individually do not have the power to change the system — your job is on the line as a steady stream of newly trained teachers graduate, and if you make waves — you sure do have the power to band together with other teachers, and concerned parents, who understand the problem and together work toward a better way of developing children.

The article squarely puts teachers in the position of agents of change. But most teachers have been thoroughly indoctrinated by capitalist ideology, meaning they are not agents of change, but agents of capitalist ideology. There is a selective process. Society is not a natural construct. Teachers are not to blame. I see them as part of the larger problem encompassing all of us.

One last thing. There’s a line in the article: “What particularly grieves me is that, whatever happens, it won’t be a consequence of any real understanding of education.” This abstraction of education is problematic. How can an understanding of education fix education? Really what do they know of education who only education know? To fix education you need an understanding of political economy, critical theory, Spinoza and Dewey, Democracy, everyday life, the good life (ethics, and human possibility) to fix education we need to think ourselves beyond the limits of capitalist ideology, we need to discover what a body is capable of, and through experimentation (warm and loving and forgiving experimentation) develop the body to its fullest potential. So yeah, education has nothing to do with education, it has to do with freedom and democracy and community development (and love if you understand the radical side of it). We can live better.

Another set of links that I could write about later…

November 11, 2010

The soft war against women presents a set of facts with a conspiracy theory like analysis.

Erica Jong on the Madness of motherhood is very different presentation of another conspracy-like social ill. note:

Here’s a defence of capitalism. An excellent example of the cynical reason that undermines the possibility of thinking our ways through toward social change.

When we realize that the human condition is a capitalist construction, and our selves are conditioned in this complex, we can recognize cynical self-defence as a defence of the military-capitalist complex. (See number 10)

The solution to her inability to raise a child on her own was to pay a nanny. you said it, schizo, she, I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing, but she throws up all these examples of communal child rearing to oppose attachment parenting practices, which might be cool, if she was advocating and educating toward these, i’d agree, better child-rearing practices, but she isn’t. She’s simply saying that attachment parenting is too hard, and that paying a nanny is easier. Hard to argue with a statement like that.

“Do the best you can. There are no rules.” If you take this to mean that in any given situation you ask “what’s the best thing to do here?”, give it some thought and then you try to do that best thing, try to achieve the best, even if you’ve got to break a few rules. That’s fucking awesome if it’s meant that way. But at the end of this article it means nothing to do with the best. The way it reads in this article, is like, “Do whatever is easiest for you. Nothing matters”

What both these articles have in common is niether takes a deep look into what change could be made for the better.

The essence of conspiracy beliefs lies in attempts to delineate and explain evil,’ whose ‘locus lies outside the true community’.[xi]

“…in both cases heroic, rogue individuals are set up against truly collective conspiracies, framing the impotence of the individual to affect real structural change or reform without making any attempt to posit a possible alternative, reformist – let alone revolutionary – subject.” [link]

Friends of Democracy

November 5, 2010

Today I have 462 Facebook-friends. And today I start a campaign of negativity. We do not live in a democracy. We do not even know what democracy means. Will a continuous barrage of negative messages and direct questions spark a conversation?

This is just a random article about how to deal with negative people. But I do expect to be ignored.

This video discusses the ideology of positivity and how it maintains social injustices.

Post to follow

November 4, 2010

I’m following this post on the decline of social democracy. And here’s part 2.

Workers and Wordsmiths

November 3, 2010

What is the game? And when we ask for a change to it, what does that mean? What is social change? What is the meaning of social? What is the meaning of change?

you’re talking past each other here -focusing either on the level of discourse (how is the term ‘crowdsourcing’ mobilized as part of a broader ideology that co-opts ideals of collaboration for capitalist ends?) or on the level of practice (how are certain manifestations of crowdsourcing a new way of subverting capitalist practices?). you’re both right, and both making excellent points.

for me, this just raises a couple of important questions. when do we try to expose manipulations at the level of discourse, or when do we simply insist on retaining the use of the word to denote the more subversive version of the concept? or: how can we embody a positive vision of what social change can look like without losing our ability to critique?

The above quote from a dialogue around crowdsourcing is as good a place to start the discussion of meaning in talk of social change.

If you read the dialogue, we are talking past each other. I recognized this pattern. This pattern in dialogue is important for an understanding of the possibility of social change and it is complex. This pattern is wrapped up in the social, making dialogue and conspiracy for social change impossible. That the social needs to change as a precondition for social change means that social change is impossible.

That we are both right is irrelevant. Especially considering the simplification of each communication. I wasn’t focusing on the level of discourse and my conversant wasn’t solely focused on the level of practice. Knowing my conversant more widely that this short conversation suggest there are many levels of undisclosed theoretical foundations driving the differences. You can read an unwillingness to consider the others critique. The conversation doesn’t go in that direction where the ideas presented in the critique are explored. There is a short curcuit.

Also, the intention of my initial remarks was to draw two others into the conversation. Those others never arrived.

when do we try to expose manipulations at the level of discourse, or when do we simply insist on retaining the use of the word to denote the more subversive version of the concept?

In these questions the concept I was trying to draw into the sphere of discourse is absent.

I think my initial remarks were clear to the point of a conceptual clubbing.

Crowdsourcing is not a democratic practice. It is a corporate practice. The crowd is used as cheap labour.

Our greatest problems are hunger and homelessness, and these problems are maintained by a capitalist logic, capitalist policy, capitalist decisions, and capitalist practices.

Do we really need to bring on the exploitation of the many for the profit of the few?

I was clearly focusing on the practice of crowdsourcing, and yet, in the third party wrap-up my focus is relegated to discourse. My critique is blunt and clear. “Crowdsourcing is not a democratic practice.”

What follows this blunt critique is its immediate dismissal without consideration by the conversant. This is conventional.

So the third party questions miss the essence of the critique. The question is: Is our practice democratic?

The third party’s final question which is an “or” as in a rephrasing of the two preceding questions, is not at all a simple rephrasing.

how can we embody a positive vision of what social change can look like without losing our ability to critique?

This is an excellent question. It is direct, in the sense that it is not a diversion, but it says nothing. It is a pure question, ok, it does fluff a little, but with a few tweaks this can be a sharp question.

How can we embody our vision of social change?

There’s the question. Why embody what it can look like? Why not just embody the change? And why would embodying the change affect our critical ability? Isn’t change, conscious change, the product of our critical faculty?

My guess is that embodiment is understood in this question as a fixed result of a critical process. Can we understand the critical process as ongoing? Can we understand embody as practice? With these understandings the body is in constant negotiation with its critical faculties.

What is now necessary for the communication of the body?

Skimming the surface

November 2, 2010

Even though I didn’t post anything yesterday, November 1, I’m still going to try to post something every day this month. Not that posting something yesterday is possible today, but everyday isn’t really the point. The point of the exercise is to write.

A facebook friend asked the question:

what possibilities (or challenges) do you think social media presents for universities/colleges?
Oddly enough, considering my last post I wrote:
Read, Education Automation. It’s quick and easy, but if you look at the effect of technology (architecture then, internet now) on relationships, and the challenge to change relationships in educational institutions posed by technology, you can see the institution takes up the challenge to the point that relationships to power and knowledge remain unchanged (stay commodified).

I have no hope in the institution.

It has come across in the dialogues I recently posted, the idea that nothing is changing. There is a very simple reason for this, there is no group doing anything differently.
This will be my topic for November. There’s nuance, believe it or not, in what I just wrote. Nuance takes time.
What are the game changers?