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


no siestas for me
May 5, 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , ,

Here’s another quotation from Carlos Fuentes’ article How I Started to Write.  What a strange beast the mexican-calvinist!

Calvin has had enough influence, don’t you think, like Milton Freedman and Ayn Rand.  Time to just say thanks but we’re not interested anymore; to try out some better theories and try to salvage some balance in our early century lives.

From M. Fuentes article:

I also became the original Mexican Calvinist:  an invisible taskmaster called Puritanical Duty shadows my every footstep:  I shall not deserve anyting unless I work relentlessly for it, with iron discipline, day after day.  Sloth is sin, and if I do not sit at my typewriter every day at 8 am for a working day of seven to eight hours, I will surely go to hell.  No siestas for me, alas and alack and helas and ay-ay-ay:  how I came to envy my Latin bretheren, unburdened by the Protestant work ethic, and why must I, to this very day, read the complete works of Hermann Broch and scribble in my black notebook on a sunny Mexican beach instead of lolling the day away and waiting for the coconuts to fall?

dutch tolerance in america
March 27, 2009, 10:19 am
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Here is a quotation from Janera’s blog entry Triangle of Tolerance.  Back at the founding, New Amsterdam was a free trade zone – and general liberalism flowed from economic policy into social spheres and back again –  while Boston and other eastern cities, dominated by the puritan British, became defined by religious intolerance.

The thought is that generations and generations later we are still suffering by these attitudes and ideas.  I find the mention of land rights particularly revealing – an industry and ideology has grown like barnacles, encrusted, around what originally may have been a simple and useful idea.

From the article –

According to Shorto, the free trading, tolerance, and keen business sense of the Dutch is still felt in America. The Dutch were the first to issue public shares in a company, and in New Amsterdam, an ethnically mixed group co-existed, trading with the Indians and making a profit, while pubs abounded and prostitution was pervasive. This was starkly different from the puritan English settlements of Boston and Hartford, which were much more religious, operating from the assumption that they had a God-given right to the land.

This small story has had a big impact on the American identity and culture, according to Shorto. Whilst some Americans need to identify with English purity, others accept the impact of other groups—Blacks, Latinos and the Dutch, among others—on the origins of America. While Russell was talking, I couldn’t help but think that this dichotomy has trickled down to modern-day American politics with the Republicans adhering to the puritan explanation of American history whilst the Democrats may be more inclined to acknowledge America as a true mix of ideas from its inception.

just-do-it junkie
December 18, 2008, 10:03 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It has been a long time since the Middle Ages, but it still seems incredible how things have changed since then.  For example religious doctrine, everyone’s favorite topic.  In the following quotation from Tom Hodgkinson’s The Freedom Manifesto, we learn that the Christian church during the Middle Ages preached against work because to work is to rely on oneself instead of fully trusting in God.  Man, things have changed.  Puritan/evangelical bait and switch – accomplished with ease by shuffling and twisting the same basic script – and hey presto now work is god.

We’ve been told religion is an opiate, and that entertainment is an opiate, that TV is an idiot box, that we are amusing ourselves to death.  The bright light of scrutiny has been for generations trained on religion and entertainment, and we’ve come to define them both as … ‘hobbies’, lesser pursuits or maybe follies.  And the strength of that scrutiny has allowed leisure and mystery’s stern corollary work, to remain unchallenged.  It’s time to swing the lamp around and see what else is lurking in the dark corners of the room.  As opiates, religion and entertainment don’t come close to the high that work gives in this just-do-it junkie culture.

Here is the quotation from

May 14, 2008, 12:06 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here’s some light reading on one of my favorite pursuits.  I suppose you thought that cup of brown you slurp every morning is little more than the buzz you get.  Or, for the hardcore drinker, the chemical you need to keep from slumping over your desk after lunch.  How naïve!  Mental slavery!  As we will see, its much more than that.

Here, there are two arguments — imagine arguing over coffee!  One is that capitalism-pushers and puritans propagandized the use of coffee to wire us up.  The other is that the coffee house is the glorious space that is left after the entanglements of family, society and government are cleared out of the room.

At first these two images appear to cancel each other out:  one occupies the world of desk-slavery and high! profit! margins! and the other slums it with really smart guys with white beards who can’t dress themselves.  But coffee probably does both things:  is the soma drug of choice for the prevailing system of work-gluttony (must work! more work!) and the catalyzer for speaking freely in a smoky room.

Historians of stimulants have tried to invest coffee with characteristics that would explain its agreeability to the bourgeoisie. Coffee does not contain alcohol and can easily be promoted as its antidote, as a means to maintain energetic sobriety and keep working, a disposition in line with the ascetic ethos of the agents of early capitalism.  There is no shortage of advertising material from the period to support such a view. Drawing on puritan coffee propaganda, the historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch asserts that, with coffee, rationalism entered the physiology of man.  Its somatic effects associate it with the exhortation to constant alertness and activity.  However, to Habermas, the chemical constituents and invigorating effect of coffee do not play any overt role in the constitution of the public sphere. As a thinker with Marxist allegiances, he avoids the fetishism that seems to inhere in the genre of commodity histories, in which objects of consumption take on unexpected powers and become protagonists in adventurous narratives.  Yet no Marxist would believe that social relations can be neatly disentangled from commodity capitalism. According to Habermas, bourgeois individuals are able to enter into novel kinds of relationships with one another in the coffeehouse because the links between family, civil society, and the state are restructured under capitalist conditions.

~Coffee and Civilization, Scott Horton, Harpers Magazine, 2007