Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

I survived 9/11

September 12, 2010

It’s September 12 and I’m still writing.

I’m struggling with purpose, or the idea of “a-point-to…”

But I’m starting to understand writing as something communal, not necessarily communicative; more present (or presentation, maybe) than persuasive. This is an endless pursuit, and I, sometimes, feel pointless, but I also question this feeling/reaction. Why is an endless discussion pointless? Even the question reiterates a logic out of which the question itself arises. An endless discussion becomes multi-directional. In our culture being without direction is a problem to be solved. And yet, as well or in addition, we are accustomed to fear the long and winding roads of exploratory dialogue. This fear may keep us from understanding each other and the world we live in.

If there is anything that can be labeled [truth] it will not be communicated with a quote-length or bumper-sticker length unit of thought. Even a book-length unit of thought will fall short of the understanding we call [truth]. My guess is that a theory of living well demands a unit of thought measured in years of action. And this unit of thought, to carry understanding, will not exist in isolation, I’m guessing it will rise out of a community of thinkers (teachers/learners/friends and neighbours (gardeners?)).

I’d like to make a few notes, make marks of a few conversations, both live and on-line, that happened yesterday.

The first is an old friend’s facebook status:

“The mass is forever vulgar, because it can’t distinguish between its own original feelings and the feelings which are diddled into existence by the exploiter.” – D.H. Lawrence.

And today, September 11, is his birthday….

The second took place on facebook over a couple days. I have a problem with the word detachment, maybe with spiritualism in general. I like the melancholy science: the teaching of the good life that makes distinctions. It may be just language choice but I do prefer a language where one can make a distinction between what one feels about an event, and the event. The feeling is distinct from the event.

This language is different but can mean the same as detachment. I guess the problem I have with the word detachment is that it can remove one’s consciousness from the sphere of the other or the event, and I prefer to remain within the sphere of the other. I prefer to remain attached yet aware of distinctions. My working model for the good life is motherly love. Can you see how the idea of viewing the world with a spirit of detachment might make me sad?

The third conversation I’d like to mark took place at a block party, a neighbourhood writer/gardener and I were talking and I tried to discuss the “happening-to” quality of consciousness. We do make choices, but I wonder if we have that much control over our consciousness. If we were rational consciousnesses I’d like to think that we’d have more esteem for each other.

I told a story of a change in my conscious that I was aware of, but did not control, did not choose. My change from consciousness of the spirit world to conscious of a world without spirit happened to me. It wasn’t the result of a deliberation of facts and arguments. It happened to me in an instant. I made no choice.

The way I pronounced that there are no ghosts, I think I came off as a truth freak. She said, “So now that you’ve found a concrete truth you’re spreading the word?” But can you imagine a street corner preacher whose message consisted of the sole fact that there are no ghosts? What are you supposed to do with that truth?

That exchange has got me thinking. What are you supposed to do with truths? I guess that without the shimmering of ghosts you can see the world more clearly. Without the veil of spirits you can see dirt more clearly. Without spirit, the idea of revolution loses a lot of its emotional charge. Our feet feel more firmly planted in the soil, real soil, the dirt out of which our food grows. The digging of dirt, turning the soil, and the seasonal quality of living connect more surely. And somehow the need to justify, or be understood by others pales to the clarity of dirt.

The last conversation I want to note also happened on facebook. I’ve often been amazed by the honesty of people on Facebook. The media presents a picture of the world politicians want us to see. Most of us are aware of the difference between what we read and what we see, but rarely does the systemic ethic come across in official sources. I removed the name, because it’s really not that important. This comment expresses something honest about 9/11 and what’s since transpired. Children are actually dying to sustain our way of life. If you see this clearly can you not want change?

[name removed]: We can’t place our modern thinking and morality on cultures that have not evolved yet. No one in the western world would wish for war, but just remember how we acted 1000 years ago and then you can understand their mindset. The danger is if we do nothing, then we have forgotten our responsibility as caretakers of the world. The sustainment of our way of life for our children and future generations will cost someones child’s life.”

On Urgency

April 3, 2009

It’s part of our Heritage, some guy, an extra on a movie set, wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “The End Is Nigh!” Am I wrong to imagine I’ve seen him in a lot of movies? That guy, or at least the message he carries is all over the internet. This is our final moment, we’ve got to act now!!

It’s never a good idea to argue, I was going to write, with these maniacs, but unless you enjoy the sport, I mean you get a kick out of the hilarity of a fixed mental position, most argument is pointless. If someone thinks it is ‘over’, you are not going to convince them otherwise. And to complicate things, this sense of urgency, this need to act now, this feeling that the time is now or never is part of our heritage, it’s a social condition.

It’s not just the lunatics who suffer the delusion of now. In Digitize This Book!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now, Gary Hall on the issues of new media and open access argues that “this is a chance that very much has to be taken now.” He goes on to say that if corporations figure out a profit model “then the opportunity to set the policy agenda for open-access archiving will very likely be lost.” (I’m currently working on a review of this book. I mention this because the point I’m criticizing here is a very small point in a pretty good attempt at thinking a situation through.) Can you hear Eminem “You only got one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, ’cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime…”? I’m not talking shit, whistling Dixie, this sense of urgency is well documented, but not in a way that makes us aware, these documents are all telling us to “do it” to “just do it” and do it now.

This reactionary thinking, (I just mentioned something similar to this to my four year old daughter today, “You’re not really thinking, you’re just wanting.”), this thinking in, about and for the moment, is socially conditioned. It’s the way of thinking within a capitalist society. We are always capitalizing on moments, trends, the way things are. For revolutionaries, this thinking is a problem. The Communist Manifesto, suffered from this problem. Propaganda tries to quickly, and sloganeeringly, drive the masses to action. Many of the radical ideas Marx and Engels tried to get down before and after the Manifesto was written, were simplified, and dodged to produce a pamphlet for consumption by the masses. And where did this get us! The revolution will be a slow burn, the deep restructuring of a new consciousness. The revolution will not happen overnight. (there you go, I’m a sucker for slogans) A long process of developing a revolutionary consciousness, which is the revolutionary process itself, is not something one can do to an other, and I don’t think it’s something that can be done alone.

In Workers of the World Relax, Conrad Schmidt answers the democratic revolutionary’s question.

How do we lose an election proudly?
Don’t try to win at all. Discuss issues you believe in.

Social Darwinism Cafe

March 31, 2009

Last night’s Philosophers’ Cafe at Kathmandu on Commercial Drive was a completely full house and a lively affair. (The announcement of the next topic stirred a lot of interest, so get there early, have dinner. The food is the main reason I go.) The conversation was non-stop for two hours, I didn’t take notes, I’m not naming names, here are my impressions. Comments are on (Your first comment will await moderation, (it’s an issue of spam) after that it’s a free for all.

Zahid Makhdoom moderated the night and opened with the philosophy: the purpose is not to find answers but to ask questions, If you’re confused coming in, the best result would be to leave even more confused. We will be muddying the waters. (What follows is a series of unfinished notes and open questions.) And then a short elaboration of the topic under discussion. “Is Social Darwinism an instrument of racist and authoritarian thought? Is survival of the fittest an appropriate moral, social, economic, or political ethic?” Social Darwinism, that is the conscious application of evolutionary principles, has a history of racism. Species development is confused with species evolution, and the value judgement is levelled against people. Makhdoom gave a few examples. I can recall two. 1) That when a dog plays in a yard no one considers the dogs ownership. Winston Churchill on Palestine. 2) Alberta Eugenics, sterilization program so the “unfit” wouldn’t breed.

No one argued for Social Darwinism. A good point was made using the person of Gandhi. Gandhi because a test for part of the discussion, the idea that tests are specific and that phenotypes are universal tests. Gandhi was a horrible plumber, but a great leader. It was his biographical development, contingent place in history that produced the Gandhi effect.

One scientific mind noted, about halfway through the conversation, that there were at least three different ideas of evolution at play in the room, they were undefined, undifferentiated and the communication was suffering for it. When the scientist was talking he was interrupted. “Science? This is a philosopher’s cafe.” (I just mistyped ‘cafe’ as ‘cage’. Paging Dr. Freud…) What? When did philosophy respect limits of knowledge, the disciplining and cloistering of specialized areas of inquiry, is a recent institutional social construct and was noted early in the twentieth century as potentially leading to the downfall of philosophy. (econophile)

Folk thinking is short term – an application of values on change – Do we have any control of our destiny? Development vs. Evolution – we should all be in more or less the same boat. Slaves forbidden the written word. Undeveloped and oppressed human potential confused as genetic (evolutionary) inferiority.

What does the fittest mean? Luckiest?

This was from a small dialogue while paying the bill: Genetic expression – the ideas that ideas are genetic – that people have a tendency. I don’t know. There is the notion of the great thinker. Darwin for example, changed the way we think about historical reality. But had Darwin, by chance, suffered a massive head injury, we would still today be talking about evolution, maybe even social evolution (social Wallacism?) This is because Darwin built his theory on previously published works and material evidence. He also mentioned at least four others who were hot on the theory’s tail. Today, the theory has been worked and reworked by the scientific community. Darwin had a very loose idea of genetic material, which has played a significant part in the contemporary understanding of the theory.

The individual’s social success as a measure of fitness. This idea more or less dominated the room. (with the accompanying machismo!) (An issue is framework.) The idea of success as adaptation to the social is not evolution. The other main idea was the ecological destruction – These conflicting notions were not noted. (?)

Consciousness is it developmental? There can be no argument that the plastic brain is a feature of our species.

One person whose main thrust was the idea of collective fitness over individual fitness (this is closest to evolution because one life cycle, your own personal birth to death existence, is well inside the concept of evolution.) gave some advice to young people. “Our generation has left it up to you to solve the problem.” What? When did this turn in the social take place? There was a comment that if we live 80 years, so much is spent sleeping and working that in all that 5 years is free time? Maybe that was what happened in the sixties, the systemized organizational man, is completely unfree, the youth were free to criticize the system. Where did that get us?

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.

He Loves His Mother!!!

March 11, 2009

Bill Mayer — He loves his mother!! I thought I’d start with that. Religulous, a film by the same people who made Borat, and Borat, too, was purposefully offensive, and it, too, was funny, but it never, not for a second took itself seriously. Borat brought us into some very serious territory. There was the blatantly misogynous college boys scene, and the dangerous war of terror scene, maybe it was the moustache, but the nausea producing, in a culturally discomforting sense, scenarios made us witnesses.  Borat, himself, was nearly invisible. Religulous does something different, and I didn’t like it. The scenes where Maher analyses what we just saw are all gawd-awful. He interviews some fairly stupid people, but Maher’s arrogance, which may have held up, especially with the cuts to clips from Superbad and Scarface, those were hilarious, his arrogance may have held up, but when he was on camera by himself, the weakness of those scenes reframed his arrogance as simply mean. Sure, he loves his mother, but he’s a mean mental weakling himself, bullying other intellectually challenged, differently intelligent people. There’s the difference, Borat’s misogynists exposed themselves and an oppressive cultural undercurrent, while Maher victimized the people he put on film.

The science is in. Consciousness is a chemical energy. Our perceptions are bodily. Chemical and bodily changes affect consciousness and perception. Philosophically I work from the premise that existence precedes essence. Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre, if generally understood would make it easier to argue that we should educate and properly house and nourish everyone. What I’m saying here is that there is no God of Abraham, there are no angels, spirits, demons, heaven or hell, at least outside our language systems. Our language systems exist physically in our bodies, in this sense these things exist, they are within us and communicable. Maher had an opportunity to produce in incredibly informative film. He came close with the Andrew Newberg, MD (University of Pennsylvania research neuroscientist) interview. Newberg discusses the process of imaging people’s brains as they pray, meditate or speak in tongues, but no conclusive statement is made. He also brought in the consciousness changing properties of drugs, but again the neurophysiology that could reveal the chemical and physical contingency of consciousness was not explored.

Maher is content to promote doubt, but there is certainty that consciousness is chemical reactions within organic physical structures. We don’t know how exactly it works, but there is certainty that material is at work. These ideas can also be communicated, but Maher didn’t do the research. And understanding consciousness, the bodily manifestation of these belief, may have softened his, persecution, of these believers. Really what was he doing? In his interviews with Muslims, he was told twice that it was politics and not religion, that the motivation behind terrorists and extremists, but he didn’t accept it. He even made “fun” of the interviewee by writing a text message implying he was a terrorist. Later he analyses these scenes saying that they don’t want to admit to outsiders that there are problems with the religion. Doubt in this sense is not a tool for understanding, it is an analgesic for stupidity. What were the political motivations of the religious George W. Bush and what were the political motivations of the differently religious Osama Bin Laden? Maher is content to doubt everything and everyone.

In Saul D. Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals he spends an entire chapter “of ends and means” explaining how political interests are clothed in religious morality. “The Haves,” he writes, “develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo.” What’s interesting is that Obama was schooled in the Alinsky tradition. Maher’s film is now an historical document. But Alinsky also taught respect for the beliefs and values of the Have-nots and spoke against arrogance. Politically, in the political system, I’m with Sven. This call for compassion, and understanding, when dealing with religious consciousnesses, is not a form of self protection, it comes from an understanding, limited sure, that our bodies and consciousness are totally intertwined, and a massive change, in our society, especially forced from the outside, well, it’s abuse.

And one last thing about embodied knowledge, especially the kind of knowledge that defines a persons existence. This is from wikipedia:

In Carl Jung‘s psychology, metanoia indicates a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form. Jung believed that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as existential crises which were sometimes attempts at self-reparation. Jung’s concept of metanoia influenced R. D. Laing and the therapeutic community movement which aimed, ideally, to support people whilst they broke down and went through spontaneous healing, rather than thwarting such efforts at self-repair by strengthening their existing character defences and thereby maintaining the underlying conflict.

With this in mind, really, what the fuck was Maher doing? He loves his mother, but he’s still an ignorant fuck. Had he actually broken through the defences of these people he was attacking, he would have precipitated a moment of realization in which everything previously known is wrong, leading possibly to a physical and mental breakdown. In one scene Maher’s mother reminds him of how upset he was when he discovered Santa Claus wasn’t real. The equation of a childhood fantasy game, with god consciousness or a bodily awareness of god, is ridiculous in itself. In my utopian thoughts after the consciousness of our interconnectivity is widespread, when we are concerned with the care of each other, the issue of religion will have faded away, but until then we need to work toward our own understanding.

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.

“No fue fácil. Nos costó.”

February 18, 2009

John Gibler presented his work, Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt at SFU, Monday February 16, on his North American book tour. Howard Zinn has this to say about Gibler’s book:

Gibler shares the voices, stories, and communal dignity of the ordinary Mexicans who are putting their lives at risk by challenging corrupt power as they build social movements for basic rights, justice, and autonomy. An exciting first book by emerging young writer.

It was a pretty good multi-media presentation.  I came away with a couple new feelings/ideas.

One, came after seeing a documentary on the women’s takeover of the state television station. The way the women used the station, turned it into a twenty-one day conversation about their lives, was eye-opening. They showed the power of media to create and promote a connecting dialogue. It’s an inspiring idea.

The second moment of deep education came when Erika Del Carmen Fuchs responded to a comment in a small discussion on the possibilities of creating social change here in Vancouver. She made a distinction between the presentation and organizing, “What we are doing here is not organizing. I want to make it clear that this is not organizing.” In the moment, it was a powerful statement. The dialogue had turned to the difficulty of changing minds, getting messages out. The more-or-less-like-minded audience, was working this idea thoroughly. There was a strong pessimistic flavour to the conversation, and then Erika Del Carmen Fuchs stopped the conversation to make the distinction. For me, she turned what was a defeatist tone completely around. It was a reminder that making social change is hard. It doesn’t happen through consciousness alone, but through consciously organized action. The question then changes from “How do we get people to care about X?” to “What can we do to change X?” It’s easy to care, but organizing a change, that’s hard.  Erika Del Carmen Fuchs also pointed out that 10 years of organizing went into the Zapatista uprising. The reminder that it’s possible, that it’s not easy, and that it takes organization, real work that actually changes something, was inspiring.

To the kids of the future…

December 25, 2008

I see this shit all over the internet. Stuff like this has been coming across my inbox for as long as I’ve had one, and I’m old enough to remember this kind of thing being faxed around. Who writes this shit? And why the fuck does it continue to circulate? What kind of zombie would agree with this? It’s the type of thing that anyone with any critical sense automatically ignores, but this type of reactionary thinking, the “get used to it” response to critical awareness, can’t be something that anyone would seriously defend. Would any parent consciously squash their children’s dreams of a better world? And when made aware of the dampening effect their pessimism is having on their children, could anyone passionately defend the destructive effect of their unconscious attitude? Who could proudly proclaim the motto “Accept your lot, do as you are told.”?

I feel the need on this snowy day before The Big Day Off, to suggest some possibilities. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are the suggested possibilities, following the given rules:

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Possibility 1: Life’s not conscious – you be the judge!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Possibility 2: Do what makes you feel good. AND Don’t ever let anyone tell your children they’re not worth it. Esteem your children over and above their own self-esteem, build them up, develop their creative powers. Why don’t we support our children in their imagination? If we can imagine a better world we can create a better world.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Possibility 3: Make your own goals. How do you want to live? Use your imagination.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Possibility 4: If your teacher is tough, tell him to fuck off. QUIT SCHOOL and follow your dreams.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Possibility 5: Find work with friends and people who are passionate about what they are doing. Do the work you want. AND Not all our grandparents called wage-slavery an opportunity. Some fought for shorter work weeks, safer working conditions, and worker control. Those who fought, fought physically. They were beaten by police, jailed, killed for trying to make the world more fair. Why don’t we tell our kids about these grandparents?

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Possibility 6: If you mess up, your parents will be there for you. Mess up, mess around. Finding your way in the world is near impossible if you want to change things. Your parents understand this and will always be there for you.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Possibility 7: If your parents are boring, find some that aren’t. Seriously cool parents will always take on the responsibility of another seriously cool kid. Don’t accept the given. Never accept your lot.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Possibility 8: Who’s making the rules? Who has the right answer? If you can live your out your imagination in your everyday life, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Possibility 9: There is no time that is not for you. Why use it making someone who isn’t interested in you money? Life is how you and your friends make it.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Possibility 10: Imagine life as a creative possibility, where real life is what you want to do, not what you have to do.

This was a difficult mental exercise. There are many traps to fall into when dealing with the given or established consciousness. The given categories need to be completely rejected, and alternatives need be created in their place. Then the word count needed to convey alternative conceptions far exceeds the pithy clichés needed for conventional reactions. Plus many of the propositions in the rule list are true, but their extension into the acceptance of “real life” makes the truisms into more than true, maybe fixed, and reality is not fixed. How do you unfix dominant ideas? How do you found an alternative on an unfixed reality?

Some of my possibilities are pretty lame, do you have better suggestions?

Love in the Days of Rage: some notes

February 20, 2007

The connections that can be made when reading books simultaneously are interesting. There is the event of May 1968, even more interesting is the historical perspective. Sloterdijk deals with the event in 1980, Feenberg in 1999 and Ferlinghetti in 1988. I might come back to this after reading The Critique of Cynical Reason. There are also issues of self that come up in LITDOR that I’m thinking through Siddhartha. That said I’m going to write notes on what I’ve read so far and then after all the writing I’ve set up for myself I’ll work on one book at a time. Reading wildly in the odd time that I have is easy and enjoyable, but it complicates thinking and writing.

some notes:
In defense of the beats… Ferlinghetti is more famous for his bookstore, press and isolated cabin than he is for writing. Those 3 beat writers had their moment. That didn’t stop them from writing beyond it. This novel is written twenty years after Kerouac’s death, in the same long meandering poetry-for-sentences that made On The Road what it is. I pull phrases out of those sentences… Some ideas…

identity/self and proof
There’s something here, something… like The Apology which starts with a couple sentences that erase the idea of self…

The co director of the theatre says, “I approve of your movement, but why occupy the Odeon?”(p.78) She defends the theatre against any idea that it is bourgeois, but the students vote permanent occupation.

Annie says to Julian, “I don’t believe you — believe in you.”(p.58) Julian later says, “I see myself pretty clearly.”(p.59)
“She a supposedly “dissident” artist, the daughter of old Lefties, what was she doing here now, in love with this rich official of the French banking system who claimed to be some kind of anarchist yet seemed to do nothing but go to his bank, eat well. live will, talk revolution, and make love to her?”(p.57),
“still intent upon persuading Annie that he was indeed on the right side”(p.27)

Annie never really knows who Julian is.

“…a great unblinking eye that left no place to find one’s private self…”(p.8)

collective weight
“Freed yourself?” interposed Annie. “But what about everyone else still hung up in it?”(p.67), “…the anarchist and the Trotskyists and the communists who hated everyone else…”(p.54)

fascism
“what kind of antifascism were we working for anyway?”(p.59)

bread
What’ve you got to eat besides fancy words?”(p.64),

revolution
“It’s a long time since my student days, yet it still hasn’t happened, the real ‘revolution’ hasn’t happened yet, it’s the same old story, the students divided against themselves as before, and the anarchists and the Marxists still on the same side but still violently opposed to each other, the students and the workers together but not together, each still unable to really understand the other, still with wildly different goals, even though they come together against the state…”(p.32)

anarchy
“The idiot anarchist…”(p.66), “If they wouldn’t be real anarchist, then I would continue on my own”(p.64), “They wanted ‘liberty’ for everyone, in the abstract, but they couldn’t give full liberty to anyone to act on his own!”(p.64),”Working separately we’d all be separately free”(p.63)

underground
(p.62) They talk here about the underground, it just reminds me how misused the word is. People took their freedom underground because they had to. Today’s underground music and art scenes…

real world
“back into the real world, Paris 1968, where everything was about to happen.”(p.14), Growing up in Castelo Branco, Portugal “once in a while I came upon a magazine that gave me some inkling of the outside world, of real life.”( p.35)

middleground
“there is no middle ground anymore.”(p. 58)

consciousness
(p.88) new consciousness
“.., his ancient land where he had known the consciousness of birds, …”(p.105) bird consciousness/bat consciousness “If, someday two brains could be joined what would be the result?… …Or might a human someday be joined to an animal, blending together two forms of thinking… …a philosopher might after all come to know what it is like to be a bat…”(Larissa MacFarquhar, The enigma of consciousness, The New Yorker, Feb.12, 2007)

hindsight
The novel was written in 1988, twenty years after the event. This bit echoes a chapter in Questioning Technology:

It was a new consciousness, or an ancient consciousness rediscovered. And it was a new feminist consciousness, the Gaia hypothesis, based on what was being called the New Physics, the earth seen as Mother Earth again, ancient source of all, and man raping that mother, beginnings with Blake’s “dark, satanic mills” and roaring forward to the dark atomic mills, the nuclear mills with their undisposible radioactive wastes. This whole new view a part of the rebellion of the sixties everywhere, a kind of “youthquake” against everything artificial and unnatural in modern life, and the French student revolt a part of the general worldwide cry of youth against the dehumanization of the human animal more an more separated from its animal roots, from the earth itself, the green earth. The spirit of ‘sixty-eight was the first halting cry of what twenty years later would burst forth in a great new political movement, a new green movement, Green Power, which would have little to do with all the old political labels like Marxist, Maoist, communist, Trotskyite, anarchist, Republican, Democrat, or whatever. It would be a whole new ball game, and it would sweep the world. It was a game that Julian could hardly know, even Annie was only dimly able to articulate it herself. It would sweep the world, into the twenty-first century.”(p.88-89)

good stuff
“…the students speaking in chalk and spray paint: ” (p.44) this is followed by a number of slogans. (Somewhere out there Andrew Feenberg has a digital collection) This says something about voices. What?