possibilities for joy
March 30, 2012, 12:14 am
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: , , ,

Nothing speaks more clearly of the darkening mood, the declining possibilities for joy, than the fact that, while the medieval peasant created festivities as an escape from work, the Puritan embraced work as an escape from terror.

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Public Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich, p 145


Ikil Cenote
March 15, 2012, 10:22 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: ,


Swimming in a Cenote, Amanda

curiouser and curiouser
March 14, 2012, 9:07 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: ,

It seems to me whoever said curiosity killed the cat was — wrong.   Every dead cat I know – and they’re all over the place – has more likely gone to the grave from a lack of curiosity.  Be warned:  it will kill you too.

Of course, there is another way of looking at the adage: that curious people will be blocked and stifled.  In this context, it makes lots of  sense.

Dorothy Parker’s observations cast boredom as an illness and curiosity as the miracle cure.  It’s an idea a world away from curiosity as a killer of cats.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Dorothy Parker

peculiar scramble for status

In a study on ‘authoritarian personality’ conducted in the late 1940s, the sociologist Adorno and colleagues asked their subjects to react to the the following two statements:

Obedience and respect for authority are the most important virtues children should learn.

Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.

Their findings included the following nine characteristics associated with the “authoritarian personality” :

rigid adherence to convention;

submission to the authorities of the in-group;

aggression against those who deviated from convention;

opposition to imaginative, subjective or soft-hearted experience;

superstition and rigid belief categories;

obsession with strength and powerful father figures;

generalized hostility and anger at humanity;

the tendency to believe that wild and dangerous things are going on in the world, a projection of repressed emotions;

and an obsession with sex.

A decade later another sociologist Hafstadter linked the pervasive ‘pseudo-conservativism’ in America to life here being hardscrabble, unpredictable, diverse and status obsessed.  In essence, the authoritarian personality is ubiquitous, and derives from instability.  He wrote:

“pseudo-conservatism is in good part a product of the rootlessness and heterogeneity of American life and, above all, of its peculiar scramble for status and its peculiar search for secure identity.”

“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited – 1965,” Hofstadter

There are dark eventualities implicit in these social realities.  Hafstadter describes one below:  how a minority could manipulate an insecure population such as ours to make a perpetually unstable state.

 “[I]n a populist culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”

“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited – 1965,” Hofstadter

Is more being said now about the pursuit of well being or as Aristotle called it eudaimonia – thriving – as a reaction against the reductive way of living so well described in these observations made by Hafstadter and Adorno?  One can hope.  Writing on empathy, community, sustainability, and wellbeing provide antidotes to a susceptibility to authoritarian personality and a culture of fear.

[All quotations are taken from Gary Kamiya’s article,  The infantile style in American politics, in Salon]

why we watch Downton

People like Downton because it shows a bounded, ordered, fated, world – in many ways you know what you get.  In stark contrast, our present world is endlessly shifting, unbounded, and competitive. This new state has become too much for many people and we want some of the stability and reality of that earlier world back, and so we watch and yearn.

I have found Deleuze’s descriptions of the control society very helpful for understanding this.  He would call Downton a ‘discipline’ society and our global capitalist world a ‘control’ society.  He says,
The factory (discipline) constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass, and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation (control) constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each dividing each within.
It’s not just liberals who like Downton, it’s anyone who struggles with the delirium and harshness of the control society.

all the law and the prophets
March 5, 2012, 11:59 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: ,

“Make love now, by night and by day, in winter and in summer….You are in the world for that and the rest of life is nothing but vanity, illusion, waste. There is only one science, love; only one riches, love; only one policy, love. To make love is all the law, and the prophets.”

-Anatole France