Archive for the ‘My Favourites’ Category

Broad strokes toward a theory of living radically and well

June 17, 2010

1. A radical theory puts the locus of control in your hands.

2. A theory of living well demands a unit of thought measured in years of action.

3. The complexity of this theory is in multiplied simple statements.

4. Lifeworld has been colonized by system.

5. There is no system.

6. “Soylent Green is people!” Dystopian literary visions and Self-help literary  re-visions can not be ignored.

7. Living well is not a solution. How and why to act is always in deliberation.

8. Do not separate everyday life from an abstract social in which a future justice is imagined.

9. What’s necessary is a way of thinking about the sphere that allows change.

10. The self needs to be understood as a concept formed through an external and internal process of socialization. (myth shattering thought is self-destructive)

11. The development of human faculties is crucial.

notes toward a critique of traditional marriage

September 4, 2009

For years I sung my daughter to sleep with Some Day My Prince Will Come as a lullaby. Here’s the narrative of relationships in a couple verses. prince comes, be as one, married, castle forever, happy.

Side note: Today waiting in line for the corkscrew roller coaster at the PNE, I was behind a young woman wearing a shirt which read “Only Vampires can love you forever.”

It’s not like the narrative hasn’t been falling apart, It’s not like we don’t understand that it rarely happens, but the narrative still has power. The ideal, the happiness is still desired. Like I know that song is not cool.

Another side note: Miles Davis is cool.

But the song is fodder for cynics, and cynicism is cool. I love the song. It comforts children, and the idea comforts me as well. Someday my prince will come. It’s hard to knock a hope like that.

Yes, My Friends, Everything is Political

May 8, 2009

Here are some notes. They fall under the general category of democracy.

Issues of legitimacy haunt independent journalists. Why? Independent journalist are not attached to any legitimating body. They need to seek sources for their stories, and those sources need to be legitimated. This isn’t always a problem, but journalists, any writer, interested in social change needs to go outside the parameters of legitimacy to engage with not what is, but what is possible.

Any writer concerned with democracy feels the weightlessness of their words, if those words lack the stamp of a legitimating authority. A scholar needs to find a peer reviewed and published work deemed legitimate by the institution to begin her critique. A journalist needs official sources to get the story right. When the story falls outside common sense, finding legitimate sources is near impossible.

Common sense is a sense I continue to struggle with. We know a lot of things — we think a lot of things — that are so basic to our understanding of the world that writing them down is unnecessary. As an adolescent, and then when dealing with kids over the age of 10, (an interesting age when conditioning is more or less complete and reflective thinking is kicking in) you’ll hear, “I thought we lived in a democracy?” or “I thought we lived in a free country?” It’s just common sense that we live in a free country, which is of course a democracy. The evidence to the contrary of this common sense, doesn’t seem to have an effect on the way we understand our situation. Clearly we do not live in a democracy, the basis of this note/post is the question of authority and legitimation as an external conditioner imposed upon a writer’s practice and limiting expression and action.

In the Weekend edition May 1-3, 2009 of the Metro, Ezra Levant writes in the Comment & Views section,

Funny: I thought freedom of speech, freedom for the press and freedom of religion were human rights!

He ends the article with, “freedom is a Canadian value and we won’t give it up easily.” He says in the article that we take this freedom for granted, and that the price is eternal vigilance, but if you find that whenever you actually say or do something outside the parameters of ‘Canadian Freedom,’ you find yourself in court (literally or figuratively), would the base line not then be that we live in a heavily legislated society, and that we’ve got the choice to obey or resist?

I’d also like to make a note of the Metro’s May 8-10, 2009 Comment & Views section. In the article titled “Vote – democracy will thank you”  we get another short piece heavy on common sense. It’s peppered with phrases (are they cynical?) like “The miracle of Democracy,” “a privilege many people in the rest of the world do not enjoy,” “this choice is better than no choice,” and then it goes into the old line about the apathy of the electorate. But here, trotting out these old tired lines, there are some interesting moments. Paul Sullivan writes,

“For some reason, everyone is really good at complaining about the government, but not so good at doing anything about it.”

Even writing the words ‘journalistic integrity’ calls the notion into question, but my concern here is journalistic curiosity. “For some reason,” just like that, is dismissed, it is as though this reason is of no interest. What interests our writer is the tired old line about the complaining non-voter. The implication is that those who do not buy-in to the illusion of representational democracy are somehow themselves the systemic problem. Could the reason be, as is even mentioned in the article, that there really isn’t anything the voter can do about it? We are limited by weak choices. Look at the Vancouver-False Creek riding with a Conservative running as a Liberal against a 22 year-old-tit-grabbing-kid!! No seriously make your choice, and live quietly with it. This statement is also ridiculous but because as common sense it stands without editors needing to check the facts and sources. It’s a joke sure, “everyone;” where’s the source to confirm that number?

And this is good too:

“More than 40 per cent do not live in a democracy and have no say over who runs their lives.”

Is that what a democracy is? Choose the people who run your life? Choose your Gods and Kings? Or might democracy be better understood as the right to manage your own affairs in community with others. It might, but that’s not what we have. Looks like real democracy still needs building.

And one more note…

Ok, maybe this is a few notes, but they do relate.

At Broadway Station on Thursday morning a transit employee used the system’s loud speaker to say “Carole James rocks” and in all the news reports this was followed by a negative comment, let’s imagine “Gordon Campbell is a big fat liar” (That’s been going around on the back of a bike for the past few weeks.) The employee was sent home, his actions are under investigation, and he will be dealt with accordingly.

Teachers have had the same sort of muzzle strapped on them by their employers. (And Canadian scientists too)

Bill 42, B.C.’s pre-election ‘gag law’ which took effect on February 13, is an attempt to muzzle all critics of the BC Liberal government in the 90-day period preceding the May 12 provincial election.

And in today’s Province (Thursday May 7, 2009) it looks like Onion-like-lampooners have struck again. On A3 there’s an article about Parliament’s unanimous support for integrating seal pelts into designs of the Canadian Olympic Team’s uniform. Yes, my friends, everything is political.

On personal constellations

April 7, 2009

Bear with me now, this is going somewhere. (After rereading I can assure you it goes nowhere.) Just recently I revisited an old online discussion because I’d been thinking about the topic, or at least what I remembered the topic to be. I was thinking about facts and meaning, without going too far into it, the discussion went on for thousands of words, and really, when it comes to meaning, and this is what I’m getting at here to begin with, you’ve got as good a chance as reading meaning in your day to day experiences as you do reading it in the stars. And that’s what I’m doing right now, a sort of personal experience/star reading, a sort of…

There’s no up or down in this, no ranking, or order of importance. (I’ll come back to this) I don’t even think I could recall a time line. Should I just list the moments and go from there? This is going to be a long drawn out post, a bit of an experiment for me, but also an answer to a few questions posed very recently. I should say response to questions, because there are no answers here.

This post could also substitute for an about me page, or one of those 25 random things list, but instead of a list, you’re getting an unnumbered look at a series of moments. I haven’t been writing about all the things that have come across as possible topics and as is the case here, these potential posts are being mashed into one long unmanageable go.

Favianna Rodriguez, I haven’t written about her yet. She was in Vancouver a few weeks ago, and I went to a couple of her talks, took a few photos, made a few mental notes, and nothing. There are posts from others online about her visit (Kate) (Sue) (WOC), but I’ve yet to tackle it. And this inability to get into it is one of the problems I’m dealing with here. Just a couple days ago, Raul made a pointedly personal blog post, and another writer, who shall remain nameless, has come out anonymous, like flip sides of the same coin, these two posts have got me thinking again about what it is I’m doing here. I’ve dealt with this subject before (here) and (here). In those posts, I deal with the question of being openly personal and nothing was resolved, I mean, I continued to write in the abstract or not at all. It looks like I’m dealing with it again. Favianna was so completely open that it’s been a challenge for me to write about her without revealing too much of my own self. She’s been an inspiration, but as you can see I’ve got some junk to deal with, before that inspiration can lead to any action.

I’m thinking about “really personal blogging” about putting it all out there, getting into it. I have yet to let go. Most of my writing on line has been abstract. I think that’s the reason no one reads it. I literally have to beg my friends to read some of the things I’ve posted, so we can talk about the ideas. And that’s it, I’m not writing about me, I’m writing about ideas. So I tell myself anyway. At some point I need to accept, the relationship between a body and the ideas contained. [[But where’s the line? (And I don’t really take this ‘extreme-end’ argument too seriously, but it’s all in good fun.) Once I lose my inhibitions, will I open my sphincter for a camera crew’s look see, (have you seen Pink Flamingo?) or maybe suck my own dick for your viewing pleasure? (The copy of Short Bus that I rented was scratched and skipped unwatchably near the end. So I haven’t seen the end yet. Is it worth it?) Chances are you don’t have to worry about either of those scenes from me. But where is the line?]]

The line between free thinking/writing and video exhibitionism isn’t that fine, I am just taking a joke too far there, but there is another line that can be crossed. I’ve crossed it in conversation a number of times. I take no pleasure in it, I mean I don’t get off on pushing peoples buttons, but I do like to roll with the conversation. What’s happening here now, one of the things I’m doing on this site is trying to draw people in to a conversation, any takers? At the same time I’m dealing with my own reflections. I’m drawn to the idea of socializing reflection. Without others to bounce your ideas around with, to build on your experiences together, there is a time for solitude sure, but without communication a very crucial component of human development is missing.

The problem with abstraction, is that it’s a barrier to communication. Really, what are you talking about?? Recently someone who came across my blog said, “There’s so much stuff on there! Say if I could only read one entry, which one should it be?” That entry, the only one you need to read, hasn’t been written yet, but the post I suggested is a selection of quotes from other writers. I read other writers, I read a lot. And I read mostly philosophy.

Jumping to the side for a second: There’s a line in a recent article in the Georgia Straight about the documentary An Examined Life where the filmmaker (Astra Taylor) says she doesn’t want to make people feel stupid, or would be horrified if she made someone feel that way. (“I would be horrified if I made a movie about philosophy that made people feel stupid,” she says. “I really want people to be inspired to think for themselves. I would be quite sad if they felt as though only established thinkers are allowed to ask these questions and to go on like this. I hope the movie doesn’t have that effect. At the same time, I didn’t want to alienate the ‘inside baseball’ crowd by making it mindless.”( totally blows me away, I could write for days about this, but to the point, I feel stupid all the time. I read philosophy that I don’t dare write about. I’ve read both volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (twice!) and there’s no way I’m touching it. Derrida, sure I’ve read a number of his books, but I think only a line from the documentary is in this blog. Foucault and Marx, I’ve read a good chunk of their works, but again, I’m in no space to write about it. Slowly, the reading is building into some sort of understanding, Oh, and the chapter on The Image of Thought in Difference and Repetition, I know there’s something there, I’ve read the chapter three times, I’ve made notes, but I couldn’t write about it. These are revolutionary writers, who are definitely on to something, who are completely necessary for making a difference in the world, and do they make me feel stupid? I do feel like I’ve got a lot to learn, like I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, like i don’t understand something I have the feeling is important. I do stupid things, i say stupid thing, I have reactionary thoughts, singularly definitive thoughts, I make mistakes, and in my private life, I’m ok with this. Why am I hesitant to go public? Why am I so scared not to know something in public? This fear of not knowing, the silencing label of stupidity, and on its flipside the expert, the authoritative voice, needs to be overcome. I’m not saying it’s going to happen overnight. But I’m coming out as stupid. I prefer “willful ignorance”

Taboo: Mind Control

March 29, 2009

The internet can make it look like you’ve got some wicked memory. For instance, I know someone once said something like “if you feel in control you’re not going fast enough.” And I want to comment on that.  Voila:

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti (Italian born American Race driver. b.1940) (site)

What I’m talking about in this post is revolutionary thought, or thought itself. In the years that I’ve been around critical thinkers, I’ve seen a number lose mental control. It happens and it’s just happened to another friend, so I wanted to say a few things about revolutionary thinking.

Following Threads

Here’s a story. It’s not well documented. It’s a singular case; an amateur archeological find that I interpreted  quite quickly. The story could go in any direction, but the way I tell it fits with what I’ve seen, what I’m seeing. I found a small library of books in a paper recycling dumpster. And the books, at least to me, told a story. The older books, from the 60s and 70s, were all about social organizing, socialism, union issues (this paper dumpster was in Windsor, Ontario) and other radical works. It’s where I got my totally used copies of Rules for Radicals and The Human Use of Human Beings. But the fresher books, the books from the 80s and 90s (this was the 90s) we more mystical. There were books on angels and conspiracy theories. And some more right-wing writers. I don’t know why the books were being recycled. But I guessed the owner had died, or was taken to a home. But that movement to the mystical right interested me, maybe scared me. If you’re a thinker you probably find yourself freely following lines of thought, it’s almost as though you’re out of control. I’m not advocating control. That’s why the Andretti quote. You should feel out of control as a free thinker. Andretti had a track. Thinkers need friends, someone to say, “come back to us.” If only to keep us in the habit of communicating our thoughts. There is always the danger when going out too far alone, of not coming back.

Sure I’ve been actively following my interests as a reader, but the lines I’ve taken from the Beats and William S. Burroughs, to Nietzsche and Julian Jaynes aren’t really completely controlled by an “I.” What I’m saying is, our minds form in a way that can’t be rock-solidly linked to a directing self. What I mean is that it’s not an “I” forming thought. You don’t believe in God because you’ve chosen to believe. And I didn’t choose the opposite. There is no “I” involved, no agency, we could argue this, but to ask me to believe, is like asking you to accept the opposite. It’s not going to happen. In this round about way, I’m thinking through the necessary conditions for a turn, development, even the stasis, of thought.

Here’s another story. I remember the exact moment my world became godless. As a child, I’d see ghosts, dead people, and maybe once, at the foot of my bed, Jesus. But I’d also heard sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. My very-real-to-me-at-the-time experiences with the spectral world weren’t limited to a consistent plane of the cultural imaginary. Santa and God were aware of my every move. The Devil was there. For whatever reason, I imagined him in the breaker box in our mudroom. If Santa could make it down the chimney of our wood burning stove, Satan could sure as hell wait in the power lines to nab my eternal soul.

When I was ten, my grandfather died. It was a turning point. He’d been eaten away by cancer. A bed had been set up in his living room, because he wanted to die at home. Seeing him skeletal, on the terminal edge of life, the world became very real for me. Looking back now, I started to see and feel things differently. After his death, my family made the move from Catholicism to a more fundamentalist sect of the lightbulb turning, tongue speaking and wailing reborn. I didn’t make the move with them. They questioned Catholicism, and I questioned the existence of God. It’s not something a kid talks about with his parents. Even friends and relatives don’t go there too easily. I still dreamed of ghosts, and demons, but slowly the spiritual world became less real.

So the godless world moment: I was in my last year of high school in a history class, the teacher was talking about World War II, and as an aside he said, “This is the one event that confirms my belief that God has an active hand in history.” He was talking about the race to build the Atomic Bomb. And for him the Americans winning that race, confirmed the hand of God. And this is what I was talking about earlier, the moment he said this, I didn’t think about it, it was instant, I had no control over what happened in my head, but right there my consciousness of a spiritual dimension vanished. It was like I was immediately snapped into this world. I was all in. I am not arguing that it’s worked out well for me, what I’m arguing is that “I” didn’t think it. “I” didn’t reason it. My own consciousness is out of my control, this consciousness is not my own.

So when a radical union activist who I used to know, would go off at local meetings about the government’s plan to launch a mind reading satellite into orbit… I’ll say this in his defense, he was waving a book that laid out all the details, and he was offering it to anyone willing to read it. From my own experience, from what I’ve seen, or at least what I think I’ve seen, there is a question of control. And if we’re not in control, who is?

…to win the battle of democracy

March 17, 2009

Back when it seemed a possibility that a coalition government would take over parliament, my dad and I started a short conversation about the meaning of our vote. He was angry that the party he’d helped vote into a minority government was about to be reduced to the opposition. “What about my vote?” he asked. I asked him the same question. I was joking. I’d voted for the communist party, so my ‘voice’ was useless. Really, voting has little more use to me than backing a hockey team. But my father asked, “no one wanted your party, why is that?” Yes. Why is it people are not voting communist? I know it wasn’t a real question, I mean, I know he wasn’t looking for a real exploration of the possible reasons why. But I saw it as a baited hook, and bit. I started writing an essay, but it’s way too long, meandering and not really much of a conversation starter.

Before this conversation started, just before the last election, I had written an open letter to my father explaining the reasons why I was voting communist. It wasn’t very persuasive. I sent the letter to every member of my family on facebook, and I am pretty sure it had no effect whatsoever on the votes my family cast. One of my cousins accused me of just fooling around. There’s something to this. Communication needs a hook. Talking about communism is talking about old news, an already decided subject, there’s nothing to connect the talk to. There’s no reason to talk about it. Bringing it up now has a bit of lunacy to it. My cousin knows I’m not crazy, so if I’m talking about communism, I must just be fooling around. Today there is a hook. The news of 1200 jobs lost in Windsor (again this year), gives us a reason to talk about capitalism (masters of industry and wage slaves), the violence of profits before people, and the socialist idea of worker control.

I’ve been thinking and reading about and writing down some of the reasons people aren’t voting communist, but I’ve also been aware of the madness associated with talking such nonsense. There are differences between capitalist values and communist values that require a complex conversation, rethinking how we live on the level of the day-to-day. It requires becoming aware of our condition. I’ve asked my network of friends and family into this conversation, so I should start with something.

Let’s talk about the word ‘communism’…

From the response to my last open letter, it’s clear that ‘communism’ is understood as a dirty word. I just recently read an article about ‘socialism’ being used as a slur. After you accept the fact that corporations produce our culture and meaning, it makes perfect sense that these powers would try to poison the words that will launch a revolution; democratize production; replace capitalist controlled corporate power with worker controlled corporate power. Revolutionaries understand ‘communism’ and ‘socialism’ to mean ‘the creation of something which does not yet exist.’  The words signify new relationships to each other, where radical democratic associations of workers motivated by human development take control of production. The American and French Revolutions replaced monarchy with hierarchy. The coming revolution will replace hierarchy with anarchy. The coming revolution will be the end of profit-for-the-few and representation-by-the-few. The revolution will bring new values of human (species) development and radical democracy.

Waves of Consciousness

March 1, 2009

Murray Bookchin on the 1960s. In The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy .

Almost intuitively, new values of sensuousness, new forms of communal lifestyle, change in dress, language, music, all borne on the wave of a deep sense of impending social change, infused a sizable section of an entire generation. We still do not know in what sense this wave began to ebb: whether as a historic retreat or as a transformation into a serious project for inner and social development.

Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Letter to Felix Guattari on Social Practice. in Antonio Negri. The Politics of Subversion: A Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century . Translated by James Newell. 1989 Polity Press. Cambridge.

We have been defeated. The culture and the struggles of the sixties were defeated in the seventies. The eighties have witnessed the consolation of the victory of capitalism.

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.

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.