coromandal


there is more to a human being

Look Back in Anger: how John Osborne liberated theatrical language ...

We are homo economicus in a post capital malaise – a thick stew unlovingly conceived, with bitter ingredients, forced on us, and permeating everything.

We are naturally human, made to work and think as machines; naturally intuitive, forced into extreme rationality; naturally modest, made to be egotistic; naturally cooperative, made competitive; naturally sharing, made acquisitive; naturally collective, made individualistic; naturally imaginative, made rational; naturally curious, made means tested.

We have the formulations of who we really are – simply the opposite to those devised by the technocrats.  We need only to resist them and take on again the mantle of our true natures.

Our current disregard of non-economic motivations is even more surprising when we learn that less than a century ago, the Enlightenment’s “narrow rational programme” for individual happiness had already become “the butt of ridicule and contempt” – as the Austrian modernist writer Robert Musil observed in 1922. Indeed, the pioneering works of sociology and psychology as well as modernist art and literature of the early 20th century were defined in part by their insistence that there is more to human beings than rational egoism, competition and acquisition, more to society than a contract between logically calculating and autonomous individuals, and more to politics than impersonal technocrats devising hyper-rational schemes of progress with the help of polls, surveys, statistics, mathematical models and technology.

Welcome to the Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra



hap
March 7, 2015, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

A crowd dances in artificial rain in Hyderabad,

A crowd dances in artificial rain in Hyderabad, Photograph: Mahesh Kumar A/AP

Receive what is happening right now, without extra layers of design or intent, knowing that to exist is gratuitous. In the moment, without complication, and most of all, aware of life’s happenstance and mystery.

What it means to be happy:

The etymological root of the English ‘happiness’ is the Middle English ‘hap’, which means luck, fortune or chance[…] [A] happy mode of being is one in which I am able to receive the fact of the world – its happening – in the right way: the happy are those who live this fact as something lucky or fortuitous, as something that could have been otherwise, but (happily) was not.

‘Hap’ can also mean ‘absence of design or intent in relation to a particular event’: what haps does so for no reason; it is literally graceful. The happiness in question is the happiness of living the fact that existence is unnecessary or gratuitous: not (empirical) happiness at the occurrence of this or that thing, but (transcendental) happiness at their happening.

From Matthew Abbott’s The Figure of This World

from Spurious by Lars Iyer



low power distance
December 14, 2014, 4:44 pm
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , ,

A high power distance makes people unhappy. This happens when your boss is empowered to make unchallenged edicts that everyone must not question and must obediently follow. The US has a power distance of 40, which is high.

A low power distance means power is much more evenly distributed and a bosses direction is given and taken more as a suggestion than a command. It results in an increased sense of autonomy and worker investment in his workplace.

From Fast Company:

In the U.S., if your boss gives you an order, you pretty much do what you’re told. In a Danish workplace, extremely few direct orders are ever given and employees are more likely to view them as suggestions.
Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede has quantified the business culture in more than 100 countries on several parameters, one of which is “power distance.” A high power distance means that bosses are undisputed kings whose every word is law. U.S. workplaces have a power distance of 40 while Danish workplaces—with a score of 18—have the lowest power distance in the world.

This means that Danish employees experience more autonomy and are more empowered at work. Here’s just one example: By law, any Danish workplace with more than 35 employees must open up seats on the board for employees, who are elected to the board by their peers and serve on an equal footing and with same voting powers as all other board members.

Simple office policies that make Danish workers way more happy than Americans, Alexander Kjerulf, Fast Company



body atlas
January 7, 2014, 3:41 pm
Filed under: unseen world | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happiness and depression are felt all over the body, while anger and pride only in the chest and head. These are images from research on emotion response by a group of scientists from Finland. The researchers used stimuli – words, images, stories – to provoke emotion and the subjects indicated where the emotion manifested on their bodies.

From Body Atlas, Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari K. Hietanen

An Atlas Of The Human Body That Maps Where We Feel Emotions, Fast Company, Jessica Leber



the negative path to happiness
November 24, 2012, 12:54 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

To be happy, relish uncertainty, insecurity and failure.  Stop running from these negative things; our wellbeing may depend on how we react to these very human emotions, says Oliver Burkeman:

[Research] points to an alternative approach [to happiness]: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

Happiness is a Glass Half Empty, Oliver Burkeman

Book:  The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking



the power of negative thinking

It turns out there’s a long tradition in philosophy and spirituality that’s about embracing negativity, about easing up on all this positive thinking, and learning instead to bathe in insecurity and uncertainty and failure, to confront your mortality and to find the enormous potential for happiness that’s lurking inside all that.

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote:  Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking



how to be a bohemian

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York, ” said Richard III.  Things were looking up for Richard as his brother had just been made king.

Was the collapse of our banks the winter of our discontent, now being made glorious by people around the world – starting with the Arab spring and spreading some months later to America – to walk the streets, to camp in parks, to make demands, to express their dissatisfaction with a world that has become unequal?

The analogy isn’t quite right:  Shakespeare’s peerless words perfectly describe a thawing; but Richard’s glorious summer was decidedly murderous, and the one flowering for us appears to be much more hopeful.

The peaceful occupiers in America don’t have murder on their minds.  But all of the elements found in the bard’s phrase: discontent, flowering summer, and even the scheming and murderous intent of the protagonist Richard III, are evident in the protests that are happening across America.

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pleasure and welfare coexisting

Context is a pesky thing.  In isolation, we’re free to believe what we like, what suits us.  Ignorance and bliss and all that.

When we talk about happiness for instance, it seems we have removed ourselves from the context of our own shared history in which the understanding of the important emotion was very different and arguably a lot more optimistic.

Today in America when we talk about happiness, we mean personal fulfillment, generally.  Or at our most generous, fulfillment for me and mine, for my family and my company, and so on.  Furthermore, there is a visceral suspicion of any broader definition of our most beloved of emotions.

As the following excerpt from Gus Speth’s book review makes clear, the originating idea of happiness in the American context included both personal fulfillment and public welfare.

The image is of an octopus of ideas at America’s founding that through abject misuse constricts and deforms and ends today as a simpering, undifferentiated, limbless, more than a little toxic mass.   The splendid and multivalent ‘octopus’ came from many sources:  the Ancients – happiness comes from devotion to public good and civic virtue; the Enlightenment – everyone has a right to happiness; Bentham – the greatest happiness for the greatest number; and our very own Jefferson – the pursuit of happiness.  The mass we are left with today is basically and depressingly:  get what you can and get out.

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how can we make it easier to ask, is it right?

Some big breaking news here.  It’s time, now the 21st century is upon us, to storm the walls of our most sacred institutions, especially biggies like individualism, progress and will.  How we have defined them is not working for us and this author – Matthew Taylor – shows how delinking one from another — individualism from narcissism, happiness from progress, for instance — can help to make our most revered ideas purposeful again.

First up, the unassailability of individualism is — assailed.  The author doesn’t dismiss it outright; he sets it straight:  our drives no longer rule us, rather we capture them to serve us.  Our political boundaries are broadened past self and kin, and difference and the other brought in and considered true and valid.

Next, happiness is delinked from progress.  The grand old institutions of progress – science, markets and bureaucracy – come up wanting: science and markets fail to address the general good of society and bureaucracy’s rules don’t care about results.  He recommends humanism and its concern for ethics be brought back in to soften and enrich how we define progress.

And finally, says this author, mere will isn’t enough.  He names three pillars of our triumphalist culture:  freedom, justice and progress, which have hardened into platitudes and abstractions around which a priesthood of flunkies has formed and nearly everyone else a blissfully ignorant adherent.

Who are we, who do we need and want to be?  Summon a new energy, spirit, leaders, thinkers to define a new paradigm for life in the new century.

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blame yourself

We believe things deeply and refuse to question them even when they don’t seem to be working, or even turning against us, biting us in the collective ass.  Here’s an example.  We’re hooked on happiness, we seek it at all costs.  We refuse to compromise our extreme commitment to it.  And why not?  Who doesn’t want to be happy?

Consider though, that the pursuit of happiness trains us to adopt a cause and effect understanding of our lives:  my success and failures come from me, how hard I work, the choices I make.  And when you lose your job, you blame yourself.  In spite of the fact that it’s not your fault that you lost your job, that there are socio-economic factors outside yourself that can be fairly easily and accurately fingered.  I have a friend, neurotic to a fault, who won’t collect unemployment insurance for the sake of her pride.  Huh?  It makes perfect sense now: she lives in a culture that pushes people who work further and further down the road of self reliance:  first stop actualization, next delusion and intractability, and eventually isolation and ruin.

The social consequence is a class of people who are incapable of challenging a status quo that has stopped serving them several generations ago.  It’s the first cousin of the reverse French Revolution crowd:  where the poor rise up with pitch forks against the people who are trying to help them and in support of other powerful people who are smiling and screwing them over.

That’s the argument Barbara Ehrenreich makes in her book Brightsided and Origen and Golan in their Adventures of Unemployed Man:

 

As Barbara Ehrenreich points out in her book, Bright-sided, our obsession with positive thinking has undermined America. “On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster.” Stories of the unemployed often end in tragedy, in part because America’s culture of extreme positive thinking means we can only blame ourselves for our failure. By isolating ourselves, we dampen our power to change the economic system. (In this panel, motivational vigilante The Ultimatum reads his book “It’s Not the Economy Stupid, It’s You!” over a loudspeaker in the ghetto.)

The Adventures of Unemployed Man, Origen and Golan