Rameshwaram station

Railway Station

Railway station in Rameshwaram TN India by






English parties
May 27, 2014, 4:36 pm
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I’ve been to one English party, in New York. I suggested it and it seemed like it was thrown together by the host who much preferred to have gone to a pub. No one seemed comfortable sitting in the small living room and eating funny vegetables and what not. Why are we here ? was the general feeling.

In this cynical description of English parties below, paragraph one describes the English as an isolated lot. Paragraph two then describes how the English have been ransacked by roving businessmen. These are related ideas, or why put them back to back like this? Isolation is sort of like selfishness and will end in susceptibility to looting.

Here is Canetti:

One could write a book about English parties. I never got used to them. They strike me as senseless and heartless, every bit in keeping with such cold people. The idea, after all, is not to get too close. As soon as a conversation was developing (which wasn’t an easy thing to bring about), it was time to push off and turn to somebody else. It was not done to spend too long with one person, that was accounted selfish. People were there to make rapid contact, and, still more, rapid withdrawals. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know who you had been talking to. Those were the ideal cases in these ritualised celebrations of non-contact.

During the War, more than fifty years ago now, it was England’s salvation that it was an island. It was still an island, and that asset, a colossal advantage, has been frittered away. Today, it is what’s left over from a government whose one and only prescription for everything was selfishness. People felt proud of this fact, as though it were some kind of revelation, a horde of men (and women) in pinstripes swarmed over the land, calling themselves businessmen or executives, and sought to plunder the country, just as once the country had sought to plunder the rest of the world. England decided it would loot itself, and engaged an army of yuppies for that end.

Canetti, Party in the Blitz

from Spurious by Lars Iyer

May 26, 2014, 12:24 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

Displaying 20140524_160840.jpg

a man can’t be a whole society
May 21, 2014, 7:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Steve Giovinco, On the Edge of

We don’t want to go home for Christmas because of the discomfort and fights and recriminations. There’s something wrong with the family and we’d rather be alone. But at the same time we’re lonely and need people to be with.

Anyway, not everyone doesn’t go home for the holidays; some people like their families. I wonder what is the difference between those who get along and those who don’t? It could be fundamentalism – families that are too perfect, led by charismatic or autocratic fathers (or mothers, or siblings), who push the air out, make a hermeticism that is too pure. Children and relations who need less purity – the chance to act out, to be imaginative, to rock the boat, let go the party line – eventually just stay away.

Airlessness may affect every family, but moreso the nuclear family – as the chance to challenge lousy authority increases as the power of a single family head is diluted by more and more aunts and uncles and cousins and sibs. Love is not a closed system, it is ecumenical.

Here is Vonegut’s case for extended arrangements. He says, a man can’t be a whole society to a woman, and they fall apart. A woman needs more, and so do we. This is from Vonegut’s famous commencement address.

No matter what age any of us is now, we are going to be bored and lonely during what remains of our lives.

We are so lonely because we don’t have enough friends and relatives. Human beings are supposed to live in stable, like-minded, extended families of fifty people or more.

Your class spokesperson mourned the collapse of the institution of marriage in this country. Marriage is collapsing because our families are too small. A man cannot be a whole society to a woman, and a woman cannot be a whole society to a man. We try, but it is scarcely surprising that so many of us go to pieces.

So I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.

Kurt Vonegut

two liberties
May 21, 2014, 12:33 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: ,

Displaying 20140517_164633.jpgFreedom to be involved, and freedom to be left alone in a history that’s millennia old. While the second is how we describe ourselves, the first is the freedom that truly defines and animates us.

The standard source of the distinction between two senses of “liberty” is a speech in 1819 by the great political theorist Benjamin Constant. The first, “the liberty of the ancients,” consists in having a voice into the policies and representatives that govern us. The second, “the liberty of the moderns,” is the right to pursue our private interests free from state oversight or control. Though the liberty of moderns is more familiar to Americans, it is in fact the liberty of the ancients that provides the fundamental justification for the central political ideals of the American Democratic tradition. For example, we have the freedom of speech so that we can express our interests and political views in deliberations about policies and choice of representatives.

Is the United States a ‘Racial Democracy’? By JASON STANLEY and VESLA WEAVER

they rearranged the world
May 19, 2014, 11:02 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , ,

I think advertising makes us passive. Nevertheless there are more responses, ranging from active against to neutral to passive to active for. The one I find most frightening is active for: not only is there no problem seen, but people who see a problem are actively despised.

Banksy is active against of course as a graffiti artist. He doesn’t believe that a private ad in a public space is necessarily protected. That’s a good blurring when you consider his argument against the advertisers. They compromise our world; we’re within our rights to actively redress.

Sometimes I carry a fat sharpee on my trips into and out of the city which I use to scrawl messages on violent movie posters. On ones with Hollywood stars with guns, I write COWARD. I have torn one or two off the wall, late at night when no one is watching and I’ve had a drink or two. Truancy or it could be the proper response to an offence I’ve put up with for too long, as Banksy would say.

I’ve heard Cuba has an interesting effect on visitors from commercial media saturated countries. The sudden lack of advertising messages is visceral. I wonder if we reduced our saturation levels, to say half, or a quarter, would we feel measurably differently? More peace, less anxiety?

the prescribed consensus
May 13, 2014, 10:01 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

Lew Rockwell's photo.

Not sure I agree with this entirely, but it is a point of view … I’ve always seen education as a liberating agent but, like any complex thing, it has more than one characteristic.

janitors in the Crystal Palace

I am going back to Critchley’s book Continental Philosophy for a second read. I’m not a philosopher so it takes time to sink in.

In this passage from early in the book Critchley describes how in the 17th century philosophy became a handmaid to the newly dominant pursuit of science. The original Greek conception that knowledge and wisdom were part of the same comprehensive, civic, good living enterprise, was upended by science which valued knowledge – episteme – over the love of wisdom. Plato’s queen of the sciences, philosophy was left to mop the floor.

The question is what does the subjugation of wisdom and the favoring of knowledge leave out? What is the implication for our lives?

Here is Critchley’s description:

In a science-dominated world, what role does our professional philosopher assign to philosophy? This can in part be answered by recalling the Greek word for knowledge, episteme. Philosophy becomes epistemology, the theory of knowledge. That is, it is overwhelmingly concerned with logical and methodological questions as to how we know what we know, and in virtue of what such knowledge is valid. Philosophy becomes a theoretical enquiry into the conditions under which scientific knowledge is possible. In the scientific conception of the world, the role of philosophy moves from being, as it was for Plato, the queen of the sciences, where theoretical knowledge was unified with practical wisdom. It becomes rather, in John Locke’s formula at the beginning of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1689, an under-labourer to science, whose job is to clear away the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge and scientific progress. Philosophers become janitors in the Crystal Palace of the sciences.

Simon Critchley, Continental Philosophy, The Gap Between Knowledge and Wisdom, p 4-5, Oxford