Filed under: chronotopes, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: demonstrations, John Berger, revolution, spectacle
What good is it to speak out, much less demonstrate: things won’t change, the world is too big and the issues too complicated. Underlying this common argument is rank conservatism masquerading as enlightened rationalism and common sense. You have to plan and speak if you want change.
Demonstrations are rehearsals for eventual revolution; if the element of rehearsal is missing, it’s probably not a real revolution but merely a spectacle. Think, act, speak, live.
The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.
A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.
A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations, John Berger
Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: fools, Fyodor Dostoevsky, intelligent men, Notes from the Underground
Why do most people lead ‘lives of quiet desperation?’ Perhaps because: the extent of our despair is a measure of our degree of unused potential (School of Life). We must have an inbuilt sense of our potentials and that they’re being cheated, which for most people is most of the time. Mr D’s embittered narrator in Notes – below – says only fools become something and intelligent men conform themselves into characterlessness. Intelligent men somehow (do they allow it?) are subsumed; and fools somehow flourish. Desperate indeed.
I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure—primarily a limited being.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, previewing the early 21st century.
The enslaved commit to the orthodoxy that has captured them. They fight for it even as it buries them.
As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them. The misplaced love of the common people for the wrong which is done to them is a greater force than the cunning of the authorities.
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: friendship, fun, networking, reassurance, self knowledge, The Purpose of Friendship
The purposes of friendships are to share interests, to reassure one another, for fun, and for learning about our selves.
But we waste time with proto friends who basically distract from some or all of these purposes.
[4:40] One side affect of getting a bit more precise about what we’re trying to do with our social lives, is that we’re likely to conclude that in many cases we’re spending time with people for no truly identifiable good reason. These proto friends share none of our professional ambitions or interests, they aren’t reassuring and may indeed be secretly really very excited by the possibility of our failure, we can’t be cathartically silly around them, and they aren’t in the least bit interested in furthering our or their path to self knowledge. They are, like so many of the people in our social lives, simply in our orbit as the result of some unhappy accident that we’ve been too sentimental to correct. We should dare to be a little ruthless in this area. Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we’ve lost belief in friendship, it’s evidence that we’re starting to get clearer and therefore more demanding about what a friendship could really be. In the best way, the price of knowing what friendship is for may be a few more evenings at home in our own company.
Alain de Botton, The Purpose of Friendship
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: freedom, how to live, ideology, Leaves of Grass, love, poetry, Walt Whitman
Here is an uncorrupted description of the idea of American individualism and freedom, which of course has been so utterly debased to be unrecognizable: randian selfishness, libertarian isolation, war and hate and poverty.
It’s a recipe for a lovely dish. Do these things: love all beings, commune with the marginalized, spurn ideology, read poetry, resist authority; and you will become … a great poem: distilled calm, revealed truth, aspect of beauty, before your tribe, for people to see.
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
—Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass,” 1855
Filed under: chronotopes | Tags: family, industrial revolution, Justin E. H. Smith, Lapham's Quarterly, work, Working Arrangement
photo: Douglas Adesco
Family values derive logically from the Industrial Revolution which own values were to procure labour, with transportation to the place of work, with domestic arrangements (and the assumption of the nurture that may give). That may be the only concession to the pre revolution world social networks and entanglements: a dim, all but extinguished sign of what may have existed as a rich set of social realities.
The nuclear family is a recent invention. As an arrangement that, ideally, isolates a man, woman, and a few children within a single, economically autonomous domestic unit, with only casual or symbolic ties to friends and extended family, it does not seem to predate the Industrial Revolution and the rapid urbanization that followed it. Indeed, the expectation that everyone should find a place in such an arrangement appears to be Fordist in origin: the same vision of the future that caused us to believe that everyone might have a place in a system of production, might commute to it in an automobile, and might return home at the end of the day to a freestanding domicile with a family inside.
Working Arrangement, Justin E. H. Smith, Lapham’s Quarterly