Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: erotic desire, george bataille, wealth, work
The greatest of these is love. I believe this more and more. Erotic desire, poetry and ecstasy are pursuits worthy of our time and our lives. Work and wealth are merely means to the proper, higher aim of love. So says George Bataille in this quotation —
It is banal to devote oneself to an end when that end is clearly only a means. The quest for wealth – sometimes the wealth of egoistic individuals, sometimes wealth held in common – is obviously only a means. Work is only a means.
The response to erotic desire – and to the perhaps more human (least physical) desire of poetry, and of ecstasy (but is it so decisively easy to grasp the difference between eroticism and poetry, and between eroticism and ecstasy?) – the response to erotic desire is, on the contrary, an end.
All your money is taken from you by bankers. Your government proposes getting it back. Do you a. go after the bankers, b. go after the government or c. watch television. Answer: this is a trick question. Both answer b and answer c are correct if you are an American.
In the quotation following author Thomas Frank gives an indelible image: the French Revolution in reverse. Where they storm Belleville; guillotine common laborers; where the King and Queen don’t have to escape the city but continue to steal, in broad daylight, the livelihoods of their subjects. We are angry sheep.
Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:
“You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.
“It’s like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy.”
As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics.
The Quiet of Dissolution, Firestorm, Sonja Braas
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: adam smith, disaster, economy, fat cats, haiti
The economist Adam Smith writes a clear description of how a fat cat reacts to disaster. First, he expresses his horror (and reveals his humanity). Then he checks to see how it affects his international business dealings. Then he goes back to his day to day as if nothing had happened. You can substitute Haiti for China while reading this.
Here is the quotation by economist Adam Smith —
Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: Islam, murder, rene girard, the bible, violence cain and abel
Following is a curious interpretation of violence from the book Violence and the Sacred by the French philosopher Rene Girard. It’s curious in that it claims that hope and social stability come through violence and not through peace. The author says a sacrifice culture diverts and diffuses the animosity a brother holds against his brother. The practice of killing animals keeps us from killing one another. His daring claim: that we are murderers if we don’t make use of ritual sacrifice. How are we murderers? By not diverting our impulses toward something extra human, we, by our very natures, perpetuate a human cycle of killing each other.
Here is the excerpt —
Violence is not to be denied, but it can be diverted to another object, something it can sink its teeth into. Such, perhaps, is one of the meanings of the story of Cain and Abel. The Bible offers us no background on the two brothers except the bare fact that Cain is a tiller of the soil who gives the fruits of his labour to God, whereas Abel is a shepherd who regularly sacrifices the firstborn of his herds. One of the brothers kills the other, and the murderer is the one who does not have the violence-outlet of animal sacrifice at his disposal. This difference between sacrificial and non sacrificial cults determines, in effect, God’s judgement in favour of Abel. To say that God accedes to Abel’s sacrificial offerings but rejects the offerings of Cain is simply another way of saying – from the viewpoint of the divinity – that Cain is a murder whereas his brother is not.
A frequent motif in the Old Testament, as well as in Greek myth, is that of brothers at odds with one another. Their fatal penchant for violence can only be diverted by the intervention of a third party, the sacrificial victim or victims. Cain’s ‘jealousy’ of his brother is only another term for his one characteristic trait: his lack of a sacrificial outlet.
According to Muslim tradition, God delivered to Abraham the lamb previously sacrificed by Abel. This ram was to take the place of Abraham’s son Isaac; having already saved one human life, the same animal would now save another. What we have here is no mystical hocuspocus, but an intuitive insight into the essential function of sacrifice, gleaned exclusively from the scant references in the Bible.
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: banking education, creativity, education, knowledge, Paulo Freire, pedagogy of the oppressed, society
He says that institutionalizing a false separation between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘don’t know’ debases and enslaves whole classes of people in our society.
He defines knowledge as a continuously restless and symbiotic and necessary inquiry between student and teacher and teacher and student.
He reveals for what they are an educational elite who prescribe and enforce a mythology of ignorance on a supposed uneducated under class, thereby maintaining their own place at the top.
He offers the hope of a system of education in which teacher and student are reconciled.
I have taught at the university level for over 10 years. My best students were always capable of the symbiotic relationship with me that Freire describes. However there is always, in every class, strong evidences of the passive student who has been pushed down and made to memorize and regurgitate and obey.
This book was published in the late 1960s – 50 years ago! – and is amazingly topical. That a simple classroom could hide beneath it’s innocent exterior such scandal. Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we publicly identified the corruption of banking education and upended it? A flowering of creativity, an outpouring of new knowledge, new institutions with new agendas, new and interesting kinds of conflict, stuff we’ve never seen before. What about you? What differences can you see?
Here is Freire’s excerpt —
Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence — but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.
The raison d’etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.
-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed