Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

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 at the end of October

October 28, 2010

I posted two “dialogues” today. One of the dialogues has been joined by another writer since the posting. We’ll see if anything comes of it.

I’m also looking forward to any discussion surrounding Paulette Regan‘s new book.

I don’t know if it comes across in the “dialogues” but I’m going to, here, in this post, note a sense of frustration. The mystic dialogue ends on a spastic note. And in the crowdsourcing dialogue I never really make communication. I make an attempt to show that I have understood the responses, and seek confirmation that I am being understood, but it appears that no communication has actually taken place. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt someone I was talking to was actively avoiding the ideas I was trying to inject into the conversation. The mystic converser avoids direct contact with ideas through a discursive style, and the capitalist in socialist clothing converser is simply dismissive.

Orwell mentions this kind of slippery socialism. (I’ll find the reference later) The thought goes that socialists want justice and equality on the level of thought, but they subconsciously know that real justice and equality would remove their privilege, so the movement sabotages itself. You can’t have your privilege and equality too. The contradiction short circuits thought and action.

There are political activists willing to think and act for equality in spite of what it means for their privilege. A very recent and obvious example is Alex Hundert. He has literally given his freedom to speak against dominant narratives. What has happened to Alex is real (Radical suggestion – Realism), and outrage, not acceptance, is the appropriate response. It’s hard to be positive knowing that this is happening.

I have a dialogue about The Power of Now that I’ve yet to post. It’s a huge back and forth email correspondence that covers the entire book. I mention this as a possible source of research into the mystic mind. The debates between evolutionists and creationists was between contradicting sources of authority. The debate became heated when a group of scientists began to blame a group of Christians for cuts to the governement funding and for the weak state of education. Christians are useful at this point for capitalist governments which are slashing education and social budgets. It’s confusing because George W. Bush was a proclaiming Christian, and the President of the United States, and slashing funding to social programs, but the austerity measures imposed by capitalist state organizations are the practice of an ideology of profit, of capitalism. There’s an authoritarian anti-democratic aspect to the extra-governmental economic policy-makers. The noise of the debate between authoritarian scientists and authoritarian Christians was a mere spectacle because niether had the authority to be won in debate.

But Orwell and his explaination of the inability to deal with the contradiction might help us understand what was going on. The real authority, economic policy makers, the military-capitalist complex, trade agreement that strip the working class of power, is also that same body that funds universities and scientific research. The complex has a mystique, with the invisible hand of the market economy, and an authority unchecked by democratic process, a certain kind of Christian flocked to this authority and power. This certain kind of Christian became the scape goat. The reality is that if you name the complex, you die. Ok. that might be a little dramatic, but funding dries up. In the case of Alex, you go to prison. In Dreams of a Final Theory there’s a story how physicist named the goal of a project, The God Particle to help secure funding. So there may be some validity to the charges of a Christian block against scientific funding, but only some. The military-capitalist complex is profit, power and control driven. The complex is also in a position of power, from this complex issues the policy that shapes our world. Christian in general are critical of the world, but their analysis, as it is, usually blames the powerless for much of the world’s problems.

Scaffolding might be necessary. What I mean is a general education of the converser. We are at war with the mystics. More presicely we are at war with ourselves. Until very recently in human history all we knew was from God. The struggle for democracy comes of age during the 18th century, but clearly the ideas of reason, freedom, equality, self-government were not unopposed by the power those ideas were developed to oppose.

Wisdom was couched in religion. It came from God. See the Book Of Wisdom for an example. It would be a mistake to not take this Wisdom seriously. The mystics prior to the rise of Scientific Philosophy had a monopoly on Wisdom. This wisdom was packaged in a fear of authority. This wisdom validated the right of Kings. But this wisdom, was wisdom.

The Bodhisattva vows can help us understand the danger of dealing with unprepared minds. One of the 18 vows states that you are not to teach emptiness to those whose minds are unprepared. There is wisdom in this. As Orwell showed we tend to swerve around mental contradictions avoiding, and unconsciously ignoring them. One phenomenon is conspiracy theory. Teaching criticism should be reserved for the prepared mind. Today is schools and in general an objective scientific thought process is the basis for education, but a residual cultural mysticism still exists. I’m working on the theory that the more mystical minded who learn of the world are susceptible to conspiracy theory. It’s a working theory.

Through November I am going to blog every day. I might sign up at NaBloPoMo, or I might just do it. Either way, and it sort of follows from the rambling here. I’m going to blog Negativity and Revolution. I came across this article searching for the book link) You’re welcome to join me. Here’s a review.

Burning Consciousness

March 18, 2010

“Come on now, we’re going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.” [ Granger ]

“Well now you’re lookin’ for a world of truth; Trying to find a better way; The time has come to see yourself; You always look the other way” [ John Lennon ]

“How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.” [V for Vendetta]

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways, and no message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change, nana na nana na na na na na…” [Michael Jackson]

Party like it’s 1999…

October 11, 2009

From the CBC indepth profile on Svend Robinson:

1999: Alexa McDonough relegates Robinson to the backbenches after he tables a petition calling for the word “God” to be removed from the preamble of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Svend Robinson at the March for Peace in 2004:

Svend and Noam

From the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

Here’s a note: In Canada you’ve got the freedom to voluntarily unite for life with one man or one woman, to the exclusion of all others:

Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada — a Victorian-era law, developed specifically to prosecute Mormons for polygamy, which makes it illegal to enter into multiple conjugal relationships.

The law says that anyone who practices or agrees to enter into a polygamous relationship — essentially, a conjugal union with more than one person at the same time — is guilty of polygamy, whether the relationship is recognized by law or not.

Further, anyone who assists, celebrates or is party to such a ceremony can be charged under this law. If they were convicted, the maximum sentence is five years in jail.


August 10, 2009

I’m feeling the end of summer coming on. I’m thinking about a couple more adventures before it comes to a definitive end, so this might be my first and last post in a while.

I watched Che over the past two nights, and today finished reading Ranciere’s the Hatred of Democracy. Maybe toward the end of summer I’ll start writing more on these. I did make a comment on Raul Pacheco-Vega’s Blog. After a couple weeks away I checked my twitter account. I had an @ message from Raul. Here’s something ridiculous, the message referred to the preceding tweet. Raul makes about a hundred tweets each day.  I scrolled through two weeks (is there another way to get to a specific date?) but I did come across his blog post on Critical Mass. I thought about commenting on this one about being an activist and a scholar, but couldn’t help commenting on the Critical Mass post.

Drop (Quote)

July 3, 2009

Here’s Jacques Derrida in an interview:

We are all mediators, translators. In philosophy, as in all domains, you have to reckon with, while not ever being sure of it, the implicit level of an accumulated reserve, and thus with a very great number of relays (teaching, newspapers, journals, books, media), with the shared responsibility of these relays. Why is it apparently the philosopher who is expected to be “easier” and not some scientist or other who is even more inaccessible to the same readers? And why not the writer, who can invent, break new paths only in “difficulty,” by taking the risks of a reception that is slow to come, discreet, mistaken, or impossible? In truth–here is another complication–I believe that it is always a “writer” who is accused of being “unreadable,” as you put it, that is, someone who is engaged in an explanation with language, the economy of language, the codes and the channels of what is the most receivable.

The accused is thus someone who re-establishes contact between the corpora and the ceremonies of several dialects. If he or she is a philosopher, then it’s because he or she speaks neither in a purely academic milieu, with the language, rhetoric, and customs that are in force there, nor in that “language of everyone” which we all know does not exist.

Things became virulent (since it’s the case, isn’t it, and fortunately so, that people do not always complain about those they cannot read) when, after some books on Husserl, I accelerated or aggravated a certain contamination of the genres. “Mixing the genres,” people thought, but that’s not the right word. So certain readers resented me perhaps when they could no longer recognize their territory, their “being-at-home” or “among-themselves,” their institution, or–still worse–when these were being perceived from this angle or this distance…

Thinking about media democracy for a while now… (Here are the notes from the public consultation to democratically organize Media Democracy Day.) There are two lines from the above quote that I want to think more about, or at least point out now for future consideration. The first is that we are all mediators. This is an important idea for any proposal for media democracy. I like the way Derrida makes the statement, and then explains the difficulty of being what we are. We must reckon with a reserve and relays, of which we can never be sure, and of which we share responsibility. And the second line is that we all know the “language of everyone” does not exist.

Note: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” I Timothy 2:5

Summer Veloloving

June 29, 2009

Bike Month Critical Mass

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

I want to put down some notes. First is a link to a post on the Google Public Policy Blog. The post states that “there’s an open government revolution afoot in British Columbia.” And while this might be overstating the case a bit the City of Vancouver has passed a motion to open its data to the public.

the city hopes to promote civic engagement, improve decision-making, and deepen accountability.

I’m just going to leave that quote there like that for now.

The second link is to the Toronto Star’s June 17 edition. Here’s an interesting bit…

There has long been skepticism over the effect of New Brunswick’s media concentration on coverage. The Irvings own all three English dailies and most weeklies, as well as radio stations. With stakes in oil, forestry and other industries, the family’s wealth has been estimated at $3.9 billion by Forbes magazine.

Efforts made over the decades to break the family’s media hold have failed, despite the scrutiny of at least three federal inquiries. A 2006 Senate report stated that “the Irvings’ corporate interests form an industrial-media complex that dominates the province” to a degree “unique in developed countries.”

At the Senate hearing, journalists and academics cited Irving newspapers’ lack of critical reporting on the family’s influential businesses.

One critic, sociology professor Erin Steuter, said the Irving papers’ perspective “tends to be pro-business, anti-labour and very self-serving toward their own interests.”

How does this situation differ from anywhere else in Canada?

To end on a positive note the Critical Mass Ride was amazing. There were thousands out. What a great feeling to be a part of the swarm.

I’m going out as often as I can this summer. I’ll be heading to the Crab Park Festival on Wednesday with a small bicycle convoy. If you’re interested in pedalling with us get in touch.

Designing For Democracy

June 22, 2009

Kicking off the 2009 Web of Change calendar on Thursday, March 5th at Vancouver’s District 319.

Originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque

The difficulty I’ve had in writing up this post is related to the inspiration of Favianna’s presentation. It was transformative for me.  I changed. The transformation clearly isn’t complete, and obviously it wasn’t instantaneous. It also wasn’t miraculous. It’s not like a right wing pundit was turned inside out, but I was definitely changed by Favianna during her visit to Vancouver. (Favi preparing for trip to Vancouver)

I’ve always, as long as I’ve been conscious, been at odds with the world. I was given a loving, left-wing, working-class consciousness through my upbringing. So I was raised into a world that needed changing. Before hearing Favianna, I was already an advocate for feeding the poor, housing the homeless, radical education, worker control, democracy, sexual liberation and the self-determination of indigenous peoples.

What changed, or more precisely, what is changing is my approach to activism.

Prior to attending Designing For Democracy, I’d cultivated for myself an abstract, disembodied activism. Watch Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the angels on the train, street, library, watching, listening to the plight of people. This is a good way to see my idealized form of advocacy. This wasn’t an emotionless abstraction I was after. I’ve always held in high regard the line, “Jesus wept.” But it wasn’t simply an emotional spectacle that I was after either. I have been reading and writing, working out a critical theory of the world. My theory has been constantly changing, and along with it the way I behave in the world.

I developed a depersonalised, journalistic style of advocacy. I see it now as a way of staying out of the confrontation, become the messenger. I have kept to a small circle, truly radical thought is always discomforting, and people tend to react emotionally, to avoid trouble I’ve practiced my activism in secret.

Favi’s history is political and emanates from her body/person. She is also a completely creative being. You might sense that I’m still trying to work out the difference that’s been created in me. One change in my approach has been to take on a more creative practice in local activism. Over the years, I’ve been turned off by the differences in theory that I’ve had with other activists/groups. My journalistic approach was to photograph and report what they said. And only off-record would I criticize what they were doing. I wanted to be an advocate. What I really wanted was a community to which I could belong. I guess I’ve always expected to stumble upon, or discover this pre-existing space. What I learned from Favi is that I need to create that space. I need to develop it through my activism/revolutionary practice.

But Favi’s brilliance is that she didn’t say, “You need to create your own space in the activist community.” What she did was tell the story of how she created a space for her activism.


Favianna Rodriguez’s Reflections
Kate Milberry wrote it up the next day
Sue Main wrote it up nine days later
Event on youtube

A couple suggestions from Favianna’s blog:

Talking about Open Relationships is as hard as fighting the War on Drugs!

Let’s talk about sex! Latina girls still having more babies than any other teenage group

Favianna Rodriguez

June 11, 2009

Here’s Reed Rickert’s work in collaboration with Favianna Rodriguez. The video was shot here in Vancouver. I’ve been meaning to write about Favi’s visit to Vancouver since she was here in March. Her Designing for Democracy talk was amazing, and totally inspiring. (Well here’s a placeholder, anyway, for the post on Designing for Democracy.)

The erasability of truth

June 11, 2009

From Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld:

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing – Meister Eckhart

From From Restricted to General Economy A Hegelianism without Reserve in Derrida’s Writing and Difference:

An unerasable trace is not a trace.