Posts Tagged ‘Sloterdijk’

Critique of Cynical Reason: First impressions

April 7, 2007

“If science too has to earn its daily bread, then at least part of it discovers the coming war as employer.”(Critique of Cynical Reason p.334)

Norman Alcock (1918-2007) was one of those scientists who earned his daily bread working on the coming war. A recent obituary in The Globe and Mail (April 6, 2007) describes his mid-life switch to peace research. He said three years ago, “In 1945, with the atomic bomb, everything changed. You could no longer defend a country. Suddenly the world was turned upside down. It wasn’t possible to defend a country, a city, a region at all. It should have ended war.” He goes on to say rational people would have seen to the end of war, but politicians didn’t get it.

If he’d continued to work on the war machine he’d have continued to make money, but from 1958 the peace researcher slowly went broke. Today there appears to be a lucrative war on. But I’m jumping ahead… What’s interesting is not that war continues to be a hot commodity, but the changes in attitude toward peace-talkers. When Alcock began his vocation in 1961 he was regarded as a commie, the RCMP interviewed his neighbours, but during the protest of the Vietnam War, the perception changed. The recent Lennon biopic shows a glamourous subversiveness in the peace movement. But what? Since Lennon was shot, are we over war?

Reading the Critique of Cynical Reason, which was written in the ten years leading up to its publication in 1983, I’m struck by how we’ve collectively dropped the bomb culture. Remember Prince singing everyone’s got a bomb we could all die any day? Or Ronnie, talk to Russia? (He’s still at it.) Ok, maybe he is still at it. So is it just me? Was it simply because I was so young that I sensed a collective dread? Was it only personal dread? No, I had friends then and they knew what was a pushed button away.

Today things are no better. All those weapons still exist. The U.S. government is far from stable. The Russians are far from stable. And today there are a number of other unstable states with massively destructive weapons capability. But that isn’t our only fear. Anything becomes a weapon in our schools, subways, hospitals anywhere, anytime. Only our consciousness has changed. Our collective consciousness has shifted toward Britney’s pussy.

Watching Larry King Live without Larry King. Meet the man Jennifer Aniston sued and Cher’s boyfriend tried to run over. Do the paparazzi go too far? The hilarious Jimmy Kimmel makes sense of it all. Talking head after talking head says we’ve gone celebrity crazy. Is this what our time’s criers call decadence? In this time, with a war on? Sure it’s all American, but our rapidly Americanizing county is getting shot up in Afghanistan all the same.

Where’s our consciousness of at least the possibility of total global war? Are we too worried about Global warming to feel anything else? Did Gore touch the effects of war in his inconvenient truth? I’d bet an analysis of the effects of war on the environment would be damning. Justin Timberlake is singing about an affair with Scarlett Johansson. He’s upset about her sleeping around, while everyone’s got a bomb we could all die anyday…

My first impression of Critique of Cynical Reason is of a very recent time wiped from memory. The Berlin Wall was still up when Sloterdijk wrote this, and the USSR, propped up by the Cold War, commanded an impressive and frightening military. Sloterdijk was filled with the terror when he wrote about a tendency to will our own destruction.

Who’s your daddy?

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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?