Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: Bertrand Russell, cities, commerce, liberalism, politics, trade
We tend to associate liberalism with big government and big society etc. and not with business. Except of course for the idea of free markets and more broadly market liberalism, liberal is the word reserved for bleeding hearts.
Unless you believe in the invisible hand of the market, but that’s more magical than liberal.
Liberalism like any complex idea changes meaning over time, but also by how close or how far you are from it. Here is a far away view which reverses some of our here and now ideas about liberalism.
At its best, market liberalism manifests forms of pluralism that throw together very different kinds of people, and burnish away the rough edges of intractability that would otherwise keep them apart – or at each others’ throats. From Bertrand Russell:
What may be called, in a broad sense, the Liberal theory of politics is a recurrent product of commerce. The first known example of it was in the Ionian cities of Asia Minor, which lived by trading with Egypt and Lydia. When Athens, in the time of Pericles, became commercial, the Athenians became Liberal. After a long eclipse, Liberal ideas revived in the Lombard cities of the middle ages, and prevailed in Italy until they were extinguished by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. But the Spaniards failed to reconquer Holland or to subdue England, and it was these countries that were the champions of Liberalism and the leaders in commerce in the seventeenth century. In our day the leadership has passed to the United States.
The reasons for the connection of commerce with Liberalism are obvious. Trade brings men into contact with tribal customs different from their own, and in so doing destroys the dogmatism of the untraveled. The relation of buyer and seller is one of negotiation between two parties who are both free; it is most profitable when the buyer or seller is able to understand the point of view of the other party.
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: abandonment, Mick Jagger, music, rock and roll, Rolling Stones
Hyde Park, London, Rolling Stones, 2013
He is a sort of ecstatic god completely given over to the trance, a black sprite, swaying. From his privileged position he leads them as a priest would into the ecstatic state. They are completely willing, drawn by the allure of a place of abandonment to the music. They mimic him, arms raised, bodies swaying.
Except for one guy, who looks like he is swaying his arms back and forth, but is actually taking a picture of Mick with his smart phone. And there’s another one taking a snap. And one or two more over there.
Hold on a minute. The whole damn crowd is taking a picture with his smart phone.
That’s an entirely different picture. There is no swaying going on, no abandonment to the mystic state. No special allure to the rock icon and his music. No transportation into self denial and union with the world spirit. It’s a crowd of rock and roll tourists taking pics to share on Facebook and Twitter.
There is an act of cancellation going on here: you can’t be fully abandoned in the moment, and also be recording to reminisce later. Considering the ubiquity of personal ‘devices’ it’s a wonder we’re ever really in the moment.
The Visit, by Kim Dorland
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: barbara ehrenreich, Christianity, Dancing in the Streets: A History of Public Joy, dionysus, joy, Middle Ages
Here is a description of bait and switch on the macro scale. The worshipers of Dionysus experienced ecstasy – a feeling of communion and immortality – through rites of wine and dancing. One can argue – as this author does – that this joyful rite was replaced in the Middle Ages with the relatively sober Christian rite of the eucharist. The church tamed – neutered? – the rite of communion with God and drove drinking and celebration out into the secular world.
Through secularization, the potential for ecstasy was dialed back drastically and the sacred act of ecstasy became mere drunkenness and fights.
What would it take to reinduct a sense of the sacred into the art of drinking heavily? In our current mindset, a drunk drinks to forget. To drink alone is taboo. Drink is measured out, like pills at a pharmacy table: more than one or two and we have a word for people like you. In the pre Medieval view, on the other hand, a woman drank to commune with god and to feel her immortality.
Here is Ehrenreich:
Inevitably, something was lost in the transition from ecstatic ritual to secularized festivities — something we might call meaning or transcendent insight. In ancient Dionysian forms of worship the moment of maximum “madness” and revelry was also the sacred climax of the rite at which the individual achieved communion with the divinity and a glimpse of personal immortality. Medieval Christianity, in contrast, offered “communion” in the form of a morsel of bread and sip of wine soberly consumed at the altar — and usually saw only devilry in the festivities that followed. True, the entire late medieval calendar of festivities was to some degree sanctioned by the Church, but the uplifting religious experience, if any was supposed to be found within the Church-controlled rites of mass and procession not within the drinking and dancing. While ancient worshippers of Dionysus expected the god to manifest himself when the music reached an irresistible tempo and the wine was flowing freely, medieval Christians could only hope that God, or at least his earthly representatives, was looking the other way when the flutes and drums came out and the tankards were passed around.
The result of the Church’s distancing itself from the festivities that marked its own holidays was a certain “secularization” of communal pleasure.
Without a built-in religious climax to the celebrations — the achievement, for example, of a trancelike state of unity with the divinity — they readily spilled over into brawling and insensate drunkenness.
Dancing in the Streets: A History of Public Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich, p 93.
We generally believe the enemy is ‘out there,’ and dispatch cowboys, armies, posses, swat teams, marines, boys in blue, nerdy scientists — to get them.
There are lots of examples of blaming the other guy. Religion often emphasizes self perfecting: sanctification in Christianity, enlightenment in Buddhism; which surely lead to divergent paths and a divide across which we cast aspersions. The enemy isn’t us, it’s you lot.
But Pogo Possum- the cute little swamp creature from Okeefenokee – said, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”
In his excerpt Terry Eagleton tells us that real relationships develop when there is a shared understanding that, like the elephant, the monster is in the room.
Here is Eagleton:
Tragedy is the form that recognizes that if a genuine human community is to be constituted, it can be only on the basis of our shared failure, frailty, and mortality. This is a community of repentance and forgiveness, and it represents everything that is the opposite of the American Dream. This means, in the terms of Jacques Lacan, that the symbolic can be founded only on the Real. Only by acknowledging the monstrous as lying at the very heart of ourselves, rather than projecting it outward onto others, can we establish anything more than a temporary, imaginary relationship with one another, one which is not likely to endure. This means relationships based on the recognition that at the very core of the self lies something profoundly strange to it, which is utterly impersonal and anonymous but closer to us than breathing, at once intimate and alien. This has had many names in Western civilization: God, Language, Desire, the Will, Language, the Unconscious, the Real, and so on.
Terry Eagleton, The Nature of Evil, Tikkun
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: aldous huxley, going lightly, island, life
From as early as I can remember, I’ve had a serious streak, scoldy, and humourless. In my undergrad a girl called me IYM, for intense young man. I don’t think I’ve shaken it quite, still striving, overreaching, catastrophizing, sweating. Having fun, yes, but returning too often to the youthful seriousness. Here’s the antidote:
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.
So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,