coromandal


to unprotect ourselves for the sake of bigness and of love

Summoning up a whirlwind of illogic, Margaret Thatcher once said, “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”  That was the beginning of the end of the idea of society in contemporary western life.  This new idea has run its course for the better part of two generations.  It has had enormous impact on our lives and our politics.  There are evidences of it in everything from personal attitudes to public policies.

I can think of numerous examples of how the idea that society, or a commitment to the public good, is essential to having a good life has ebbed away.  On a personal level, the incidence of competition and lack of empathy among friends and colleagues is higher and harsher than it used to – and needs to – be.  Professional jealousy and character assassination at work particularly, as people angle to get ahead, are commonly accepted, where I don’t think they used to be as much.   Continue reading



philosophy of success

Alain de Botton writes and speaks with a perfect blend of erudition and accessibility.  He’s on the vanguard of a new movement to popularize philosophy.  But we hate ideas, we’re a ‘just do it’ culture, how can there be a movement with any traction to popularize philosophy?

Consider that in this society and the world, we are going through a great deal of tumult and change: a lot of unemployment, corruption, and general upheaval.  And consider too that perhaps we need to question some of the ideas that have formed the basis of everything that went wrong and got us into this mess.  In theory, new ideas gain traction when enough people start to think that the ‘just do it’ culture should pit stop and begin to listen to people who broker in ideas, like philosophers, like de Botton.

A philosopher, and someone who knows philosophy, can tell you why a perpetually positive society has lots of envy and depression.  And why a meritocratic society can become very cruel.  And he can tell you that one very real way out of our hyper competitive work and social culture is an understanding of Greek tragedy which sets at its theatrical center, failure.  He can tell you how our analytic ways of thinking preclude the truth that our relative successes and failures in life are often very haphazard.

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a world lacking description
March 26, 2008, 4:09 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Interesting that vampires cannot see their own reflection.  A little less interesting that dogs see their reflection – and that of their bones – and greedily drop the real attempting to get the unreal.  So it seems vanity and greed are metaphored in images of reflection and that the dead are robbed of these human indulgences. Here, in post war communist Poland, all points of reference are removed by refusing to name and describe things.  Instead images and words are used to make an idea that isn’t real.  And living in that place is hard and lonely and duplicitous.

“It’s hard to live in a world lacking description. It cannot be understood if one didn’t live in a not-described world. It is as if you lived without identity. Simply, anything around has no reflection, anywhere. You can’t see any reference point around, for nothing has been described and nothing has a name. So you live on your own, alone; anything that could be used to describe the world was used by propaganda to build the theoretically attractive idea, but… in reality, unfortunately, it always ends up the same way: I mean, you feel a gun on your head. We lived by ideas of fraternity, equality and justice, but there was neither fraternity, nor equality and no justice at all.”

Krzystztof Kieslowski