Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia (Russian: Анастасия Николаевна Романова [Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova]; June 18 [O.S. June 5] 1901 – July 17, 1918) was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna.
Anastasia was the younger sister of Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, and Maria, and was the elder sister of Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich of Russia. She was murdered with her family in an extrajudicial killing by members of the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police, at Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918.
Persistent rumors of her possible escape circulated after her death, fueled by the fact that the location of her burial was unknown during the decades of Communist rule. The mass grave near Yekaterinburg which held the remains of the Tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was revealed in 1991, and the bodies of Alexei Nikolaevich and the remaining daughter—either Anastasia or her older sister Maria—were discovered in 2007. Her possible survival has been conclusively disproved. Forensic analysis and DNA testing confirmed that the remains are those of the imperial family, showing that all four grand duchesses were killed in 1918. Several women falsely claimed to have been Anastasia; the best known impostor is Anna Anderson. Anderson's body was cremated upon her death in 1984, but DNA testing in 1994 on available pieces of Anderson's tissue and hair showed no relation to the DNA of the Romanov family.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Monday, November 13, 2017
Perhaps the key achievement of Lenin was that he silently dropped the orthodox Marxist notion of revolution as a necessary step in historical progress. Instead he followed Louis Antoine Saint-Just’s insight that a revolutionary is like a seaman navigating in uncharted territories.- Slavoj Zizek, "The Rage Potential"
This was Lenin’s answer to the big problem of western Marxism: how is it that the working class does not constitute itself as a revolutionary agent? Western Marxism, at the time, was in a constant search for other social agents who could play the role of the revolutionary agent, as the understudy replacing the indisposed working class: third-world peasants, students and intellectuals; and the excluded … up to the refugees hailed today by some desperate leftists as “nomadic proletarians”.
This failure of the working class as the revolutionary subject is at the very core of the Bolshevik revolution: Lenin’s art was to detect the “rage potential” of the disappointed peasants. The October revolution won due to the slogan “land and peace,” addressed to the vast peasant majority, seizing the short moment of their radical dissatisfaction.
Against the current
Lenin was thinking along these lines already a decade before, which is why he was horrified at the prospect of the success of the Stolypin land reforms, which aimed at creating a new strong class of independent farmers – he wrote that if Stolypin succeeded, the chance for a revolution would be lost for decades. All successful socialist revolutions, from Cuba to Yugoslavia, followed this model, seizing the opportunity in an extreme critical situation, co-opting the national-liberation or other “rage capitals.”
The point is not just that revolution no longer rides the train of history, following its laws – the problem is a different one. It is as if there is a law of history, a more or less clear predominant main line of historical development, and that revolution can only occur in its interstices, “against the current.”
One often opposes here the “decisionist” Lenin of 1917 to the Lenin of the last years of his life, a more pragmatic and realist Lenin desperately trying to institutionalise revolution in a much more modest way. However, what the two stances share is the ruthless will to grab power and then to hold it.
Lenin’s focus on taking power did not just express his desire for power, it meant much more: his obsession (in a good sense of the term) with opening up a “liberated territory,” space controlled by emancipatory forces outside the global capitalist system.
This is why any poetry of permanent revolutionising was totally alien to Lenin – when, after the defeat of the expected all-European revolution in the early 1920s, some Bolsheviks thought it would be better to lose power than to stick to it in these conditions, Lenin was horrified by this idea.
On the other hand, there was much more “utopianism” in Lenin’s efforts to fill the free space outside the capitalist system with new content – the paradox is that he was a pragmatist in how to grab power, and a utopian in what to do with it.
And we are today in a similar predicament. While the leftist resistance against global capitalism fails again and again to undermine its advance, it remains strangely out of touch with many trends which clearly signal capitalism’s progressive disintegration. It is as if the two tendencies (resistance and self-disintegration) move at different levels and cannot meet, so that we get futile protests in parallel with immanent decay and no way to bring the two together in a coordinated act of capitalism’s emancipatory overcoming.
The true utopia
How did it come to this? While (most of) the left desperately tries to protect the old workers’ rights against the onslaught of global capitalism, it is almost exclusively the most “progressive” capitalists themselves (from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg) who talk about post-capitalism – as if the very topic of passage from capitalism as we know it to a new post-capitalist order is appropriated by capitalism.
Although Marx provided an unsurpassable analysis of the capitalist reproduction, his mistake was not just that he counted on the prospect of capitalism’s final breakdown, and therefore couldn’t grasp how capitalism came out of each crisis strengthened. There is a much more tragic mistake at work.
In the words of Wolfgang Streeck – Marxism was right about the “final crisis” of capitalism. We are clearly entering it today, but this crisis is just that – a prolonged process of decay and disintegration, with no easy Hegelian Aufhebung in sight, no agent to give this decay a positive twist and transform it into the passage to some higher level of social organisation.
In view of apocalyptic prospects of our near future, from ecological catastrophes to mass migrations, one should nonetheless follow Beckett’s line: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
The true utopia is the idea that, if we go on within the existing global capitalist system, we can save ourselves. So we need more than ever Lenin’s spirit of radicalism combined with ruthless pragmatism.
Maybe one should take the risk to repeat here a classic Soviet joke: in an official Moscow gallery, there is a painting displayed titled “Lenin is in Warsaw” that depicts Nadhezda Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, in her Kremlin room and engaged in wild sex with a young Komsomol member. A surprised visitor asks the guide: “But where is Lenin here?”, to which the guide calmly replies: “Lenin is in Warsaw.”
Let us imagine a similar exhibition in Moscow in 1980, with a picture with the same title depicting a group of top Soviet nomenklatura members debating the “danger” the Polish Solidarity movement presents to the interests of the Soviet Union. A surprised visitor asks the guide: “But where is Lenin?”, and the latter replies: “Lenin is in Warsaw.” In spite of Western interventions coordinated by the Pope and Reagan, etc, Lenin was in Warsaw in the 1970s and 1980s, his spirit was there in workers protests out of which solidarity grew.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Had it not been for the necessity of confronting the German Nazi regime, would post WWII desegregation and social integration of Black Americans into the American social mainstream have ever occurred? Throughout the war, we often proclaimed that we were "better than them." But in reality, being "better than them" didn't really begin until AFTER the war. And the Communists of the Soviet Union, were they "better than us?" I think that they discriminated against ethnic non-Russians is many of the same ways that pre-Civil Rights Act Americans discriminated against non-whites, and as most Europeans overtly discriminated against "Colonials".
Nationalism pre-WWII was a defacto "ethnic nationalism." Since post-WWII, it has been structured so as to provide equality of opportunity for all ethnicities legitimately present within the national boundaries of the post-modern nation state.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017
Thursday, October 12, 2017
-James Patrick Kinney, "The Cold Within"
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In bleak and bitter cold.
Each one possessed a stick of wood
Or so the story’s told.
Their dying fire in need of logs
The first man held his back
For of the faces round the fire
He noticed one was black.
The next man looking ‘cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes.
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.
The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight.
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain.
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
Their logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without
They died from the cold within.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
By Geoffrey Dunn
In the spring of 1898, Jane Stanford, wife of railroad magnate Leland Stanford, commissioned A.D.M. Cooper, San Jose's celebrated artist and bon vivant, to paint a still-life study of her jewelry. Mrs. Stanford was planning to raise money for the Stanford University Library by auctioning off a large collection of her diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, but she wanted to maintain an artistic record of her treasures for posterity. The acclaimed Cooper, she believed, was the right man for the job.
Notoriously proper and aristocratic, not to mention a staunch advocate of temperance, Stanford demanded that Cooper dress in formal attire and refrain from drink while he accomplished his task. Irked by her pretensions, Cooper stormed out of the Stanford mansion before completing his work. Back in his studio, he precisely added the final touches to the painting from memory, then placed his study in the window of a downtown San Jose saloon for the public to gawk at.
Upon learning of Cooper's indecorous gesture, Stanford ordered her driver down the peninsula to retrieve the painting, which was then prominently displayed in the Leland Stanford Room of the Stanford Museum. "What a sad thing," Lady Stanford reportedly opined about Cooper. "All that talent--dulled by John Barleycorn."
By the time of his imbroglio with Jane Stanford, A.D.M. Cooper had already achieved an international reputation for his grand and romantic renderings of American Indians, buffalo herds and frontiersmen--as well as his idealized portraits of partially clad young women. That Cooper's talents had been "dulled by John Barleycorn" remains open to debate, but he was most certainly an incorrigible carouser and lover of the night life, often to the consternation of San Jose's more polite society circles.
"Of the 16,000 artists I've chronicled," declares Edan Hughes, author of the definitive reference book Artists in California: 1786-1940, "none was as colorful as Astley David Middleton Cooper. That man knew how to live. He was a true Bohemian, and he loved to have a good time. He knew how to party. And paint. And then party some more. He had a zest for life unmatched in the artistic annals of California."
Nearly three-quarters of a century after his death in San Jose, in 1924, Cooper remains a legendary local figure, his reputation still larger than life. In terms of concrete tributes to the man and his art, however, his recognition is minimal at best.
A handful of Cooper's paintings hang at the San Jose Historical Museum, where a good deal more of the Cooper archive remains in storage. A quartet of Cooper's works can be seen in the VIP Lounge at the San Jose Convention Center, not readily accessible to the general public. You can occasionally spot one or two of his lesser works in local antique shops--and that's about it.
"It's time that this community paid tribute to someone who had a significant impact on American art," says gallery owner Paul Bingham. "People here say they are always tired of living in San Francisco's cultural shadow. Well, we have a cultural history here, too. Cooper was one of the most successful commercial artists of his time. His paintings sold everywhere: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, London, Paris. ... I'd say it's about time San Jose paid him his due."
The Artists's Studio
Bingham currently represents a dozen of Cooper's works, including one of his renditions of Inquest on the Plains, a dramatic depiction of buffaloes surrounding a dead Indian warrior with an arrow through his heart. The paintings, put together over 25 years by a collector who traveled the country in search of Cooper's work, will be displayed in Bingham's Fairmont Hotel gallery through April. The asking price for the dozen paintings, just in case anyone is looking to redecorate their living room, is somewhere in the half-million-dollar range.
Although Bingham clearly has a vested interest in his enthusiasm for Cooper, he is also a man with a larger mission. "My vision is to have a central place in San Jose--maybe the Convention Center, the San Jose Arena or even some local corporate headquarters--bring together the works of this city's early important artists, people like Cooper, Andrew Hill, Charles Henry Harmon and Albert DeRome," he says. "It's a cultural outrage that more civic attention isn't paid to their works--especially Cooper's."
Named after a fabled British scientist, Astley D.M. Cooper was born on Dec. 23, 1856, in St. Louis, Mo., then the gateway to the American West. His father, David Middleton Cooper, was a prominent Irish-born physician, while his mother, the former Fannie Clark O'Fallon, was the daughter of Major Benjamin O'Fallon, a well-known figure in the American Indian wars, and a grandniece of the legendary Louisiana Territory explorer William Clark.
The O'Fallons, Clarks and Coopers counted among their friends George Catlin, the most regaled painter of American Indians in the 19th century. "My purpose [is to] snatch from hasty oblivion ... a truly lofty and noble race," Catlin once declared. "I have flown to their rescue so that phoenix-like they may rise from the stain on the painter's canvas."
Between 1830 and 1836, Catlin became so intimate with certain Native American tribes that he was one of the first--and only--European Americans to witness what he describes as sacred sexual and warrior rituals. The young Cooper was fascinated by the stories and paintings of Catlin, who would hold a lifetime influence on his talented protege.
Cooper attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied European art and showed early promise in portraiture and landscape drawing. At the age of 20, before completing his degree, he embarked on a journey through the West that saw him follow in the footsteps of his mentor Catlin. He lived with Indian tribes throughout the region, earning their respect; and him, theirs. He viewed the war being waged against them by the U.S. government as a tragedy of biblical proportions. Events like the Battle of the Little Big Horn, which took place in 1876 while Cooper was still on his journey, would weigh on him for life.
Settling down for a two-year stint in Boulder, Colo., Cooper took a position as an illustrator for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and soon achieved national attention for his depictions of American Indians and frontier landscapes. His life as an artist was cast.
At the age of 24, Cooper arrived in San Francisco, where he assumed the pose of a Bohemian artist on the city's Barbary Coast. Establishing his first studio in the city's Latin Quarter, his reputation continued to soar, and he was commissioned to paint an official portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant. By the early 1880s, his paintings were being marketed throughout the U.S. and Europe.
In 1883, his ability to make a living secured, Cooper decided to move south to the agriculturally rich Santa Clara Valley, settling into a home at 250 S. 19th St. in East San Jose. His widowed mother eventually followed him. Cooper assimilated into the cultural life of his burgeoning adopted city.
By most accounts, Cooper took San Jose by storm. Handsome, debonair and charming, he was also a renowned ladies' man when he first arrived and a frequent imbiber at local saloons. Local legend has it that Cooper paid many a bar tab with one of his paintings. It was a rare drinking establishment from San Francisco to Santa Cruz that didn't have a Cooper nude hanging from its walls. At least one local bar, the Louvre, was said to have dozens of Cooper's paintings on display.
Cooper was an accomplished violinist and occasionally sat in with local orchestras. According to Clyde Arbuckle's History of San Jose, he often invited visiting vaudeville troupes and opera singers to his home for after-hour performances and raucous parties.
All the while Cooper maintained a furious painting schedule. He was never a "struggling artist." He commanded a high income throughout his life, during which he completed more than a thousand paintings. One of his works--Trilby, named after a 19th-century novel by George DuMaurier--reportedly sold for $62,000 in the 1890s, while another, The Story of the Evil Spirits, sold for $20,000, both extraordinarily high prices for their day. He expanded his repertoire beyond the Western genre scenes that made him famous to include classical allegories, religious and historical depictions, portraits, and landscapes.
Although the content of Cooper's paintings was largely reflective of his times and even to an extent imitative, his style was highly distinctive. "You can look at one of his paintings and know it's his," observes Bingham. "He really didn't need to sign them. His style was his signature."
Cooper's early compositions were representational and linear, much like Catlin's. In the mature stages of his career, he frequently invoked a more impressionistic style that hinted at the tonalism of painters like James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Arthur Davies.
Using broad brush strokes and dark backgrounds, Cooper often imparted somber moods to his paintings, even to the point of being macabre. Unlike the tonalists, however, he infused his works with action and drama, and an underlying political commentary. For Cooper, Indians and buffaloes were symbols of a great American tragedy. Throughout his life, he portrayed their passing as paradise lost.
That Cooper's philosophical perspective was informed by the prejudices of the Gilded Age goes without saying. His romanticized depictions of American Indians--and for that matter women--are clearly at odds with our modern-day sensibilities. But unlike his contemporaries, Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, who celebrated the 19th-century American West and its genocidal excesses, Cooper was, in essence, painting its eulogy.
This is the dominant motif of the collection currently on exhibit at the Bingham Gallery. The most accomplished painting in the ensemble, The Buffalo Hunt, completed in 1890, draws one immediately into the center of the canvas by its complex use of light and movement. It is without question one of Cooper's masterpieces.
Although Cooper was a contemporary of California painters like William Keith, Arthur Matthews and Xavier Martinez, he seems never to have been a part of the so-called California Movement, which flourished in the decades straddling the turn of the century. He was rarely mentioned in California art books of the time, and is rarely included in contemporary exhibitions of the genre.
Particularly in respect to his use of sunsets, moonlight and fire, he appears to have been influenced by Julian Rix and Howard A. Streight (the latter lived in Mountain View from 1890 until his death in 1912), though there is no record that Cooper had any interactions with either. His one close artist friend and drinking companion, Alexander M. Wood, was clearly his inferior artistically, although they occasionally worked together on the same canvas, including The Buffalo Hunt.
Cooper's painting style was therefore a product of Western and European influences, not of California, and remained so throughout his career. While his heart may have been in San Jose, his artistic inspiration, for the most part, was located somewhere east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the Mississippi River. A regional artist he was not. Cooper apparently didn't let the international acclaim he received go to his head. He was well known in the community for his generosity, oftentimes to strangers. Many of his paintings were presented to friends and associates to commemorate wedding anniversaries and birthdays.
Arbuckle cites "old-timers" from San Jose who recalled Cooper as someone "who would literally give you the shirt off his back."
Cooper's nephew, John George, now in his mid-70s, tells the story of the time Cooper rode into town on a streetcar for an evening of recreation with some of his friends. Knowing that the streetcars stopped running at midnight, Cooper asked the "mop boy" from a local saloon what time it was.
"Don't know," the lad replied. "Ain't got no watch."
Cooper missed the last train.
A short time later, after selling one of his more expensive paintings, Cooper traveled to New York City, where he purchased a gold watch for the mop boy. Upon returning to San Jose, he presented it to the astonished youngster. "The next time I ask you what time it is, I want you to know."
In 1909, Cooper commanded the attention of the entire San Jose community when he constructed an ornate, Egyptian-styled studio at the northeast corner of San Antonio and South 21st streets, in the middle of a quaint residential neighborhood not far from his home. It was here that Cooper housed some of his most accomplished paintings and found respite in the latter years of his life.
An account of a visit to Cooper's "Egyptian castle" in the San Jose Daily News noted that it contained "a maze of paintings of every kind and description, while the ceilings and walls are adorned with a myriad of fascinating odds and ends with distinct appeal to the imagination." A small, simple sign on the building bore the words "Cooper studio."
Cooper himself was described as "grey-haired, but stalwart and erect," with a "smile that played gentle wrinkles about the eyes," while smoking a "characteristic cigar."
A decade later, in July of 1919, Cooper married Charlotte George, the daughter of some family friends, who was 26 years his junior. By then in his early 60s, he was finally ready to settle down. "There is only one thing dearer to me than my painting," Cooper declared near the end of his life. "And that is my wife." The couple had no children.
Cooper's domestic bliss lasted little more than half a decade. In September of 1924, after a long battle with tuberculosis, Cooper passed away at his 19th Street home, at the age of 67. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Citing a passage from Eugene T. Sawyer's History of Santa Clara County, the Mercury obituary declared: "Holding to high ideals, Mr. Cooper has gained a position of distinction in his profession because he has never been satisfied with the second best, but has ever striven for something above, beyond and better, and his contribution to art is a notable one."
Over the last 75 years, Cooper's artistic reputation has taken something of a roller-coaster ride. During the Depression and the early days of World War II, he became a forgotten figure on the cultural landscape as his paintings gathered dust in barrooms, basements and attics throughout the city. His Egyptian studio had been razed, leaving only an empty lot to mark his memory.
In 1944, San Jose City Councilmember Clyde L. Fischer, who had known Cooper as a boy, attempted to have the city purchase some of the artist's more important works from his aging widow. Fischer's efforts generated a lengthy profile of Cooper in the San Jose Evening News as his legend was rekindled for a new generation.
In the 1950s, Cooper's historic significance was beginning to be recognized, although the value of his paintings remained low. His massive, 10-foot-by-15-foot painting The Blacksmith was restored by a local artist and placed on display at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. The mural-sized work depicts a blacksmith shop owned by Amos Williams on Santa Clara Street at the turn of the century, where Cooper reputedly spent a considerable amount of time seated on a nail keg socializing and sketching. The painting is currently in storage at the San Jose Historical Museum.
In the spring of 1976, the Triton Museum in Santa Clara hosted the first retrospective on Cooper, bringing together 25 of his works. A catalogue of the exhibit, clearly reflecting the consciousness of the times, declared:
[Cooper's] paintings were a tribute to the Indians, who were viewed with respect by the artist and portrayed as strong human beings. Cooper's paintings also captured the vastness of the North American landscape and its then untouched beauty, preserved by the Indians who lived in harmony with nature. His paintings stood as symbols of a way of life that had vanished long before Cooper stopped painting his scenes; thus his later paintings took on an element of tragedy in that they represented remembered visions of life long past.
The Triton exhibition heightened interest in Cooper, both locally and nationally, and the prices on his paintings climbed dramatically. Paintings that once sold in antique stores for $50 were now demanding four figures.
In 1986, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency purchased from the late "Trader Lew" Bohnett four of Cooper's most important paintings--including Allegory of California, completed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco--for $80,000. The agency spent another $31,000 to restore them. Some local art experts balked at the expenditure, dubbing it a sweetheart deal, while others viewed it as a first step in the right direction. Since then, some of Cooper's works reportedly have sold for as much as $90,000.
Are the paintings of A.D.M. Cooper really worth that kind of money? Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and value in one's pocketbook. The cold hand of the art market ultimately will determine the price of each work.
California painting expert Edan Hughes says of Cooper, "When he was good, he was brilliant; when he was bad, he was laughable." Nevertheless, Hughes contends, Cooper is definitely in the "first tier" of California artists. "He had a national reputation," Hughes notes. "And deservedly so."
Hughes tells of encountering a painting of a buffalo head by Cooper more than 25 years ago. "It was a magnificent beast," he recalls, "so perfectly rendered that you could almost smell it. I have been haunted by that painting ever since."
A few years later, Hughes traveled to Sacramento, where a work by Cooper was advertised for $25. It was a small canvas of cherubs playing alongside a creek. "The painting was not worth that much," Hughes chuckles. "I laughed all the way home."
This disparity in Cooper's work is what makes pricing his paintings so difficult, especially for the casual collector. Even today, some of his more erratic compositions still bring under $1,000.
Hughes believes that Cooper's drinking was the source of his unevenness. "Cooper is the only painter in the early California repertoire in whose paintings you can ascertain his level of inebriation," he contends.
Bingham, however, argues that Cooper's drinking has been greatly embellished over the years. "Did he drink? Sure he did. Most people do. Was he an alcoholic? I don't think so. The unevenness in his oeuvre, I believe, reflects the varied reasons why he painted. When he was painting for friends or the local clientele, he often hurried his work. He lowered his standards, if you will.
"But his professional works--those paintings by which he earned a living, the ones that were intended for East Coast or European markets--were consistently of superior quality. His level of professionalism was never compromised. It's on those paintings, I would argue, that his reputation should be based."
Cooper's nephew, John George, also doubts his uncle was an alcoholic. "He was basically a 'good-time Charlie,' " George says. "My father said that while he often drank when he painted--either wine or whiskey--he never saw him drunk. My Aunt Charlotte [Cooper's wife] always claimed that the drinking stories were mostly exaggeration. They made for a good yarn and helped feed the legend. But his paintings speak for themselves."
Friday, September 29, 2017
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
-Alexander Pope, "Epistle to Burlington"
To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the Column, or the Arch to bend,
To swell the Terras, or to sink the Grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot.
But treat the Goddess like a modest fair,
Nor over-dress, nor leave her wholly bare;
Let not each beauty ev'ry where be spy'd,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points who pleasingly confounds
Surprises, varies, and conceals the Bounds.
Consult the Genius of the Place in all;
That tells the Waters or to rise, or fall,
Or helps th' ambitious Hill the heav'n to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the Vale,
Calls in the Country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks or now directs th' intending Lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.
Still follow Sense, of ev'ry Art the Soul,
Parts answ'ring parts shall slide into a whole,
Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
Start ev'n from Difficulty, strike from Chance;
Nature shall join you, Time shall make it grow
A Work to wonder at--perhaps a STOWE.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
— Bertolt Brecht, "Interrogation of the Good"
Step foward: we hear
That you are a good man.
You cannot be bought, but the lightning
Which strikes the house, also
Cannot be bought.
You hold to what you said.
But what did you say?
You are honest, you say your opinion.
You are brave.
You are wise.
You do not consider personal advantages.
Whose advantages do you consider then?
You are a good friend
Are you also a good friend of the good people?
Hear us then: we know
You are our enemy. This is why we shall
Now put you in front of a wall.
But in consideration of
your merits and good qualities
We shall put you in front of a good wall and shoot you
With a good bullet from from a good gun and bury you
With a good shovel in the good earth.
Friday, September 22, 2017
“Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay; but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none.”-Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener"
Zizek pens "Revelations" for "Communists" (on the capitalist end-time).
This muggy, rainy London evening I had the opportunity to take in two intellectual titans debate. The topic for debate was something which has been in the forefront of my own mind for sometime and has been brought up by those I’m close to also. It’s something you’ve probably considered recently too – “How the fuck do we get ourselves out of this shit?” It doesn’t get more pertinent.Mr. Hummels
The real reason behind the evening was to discuss Zizek’s new book ‘The Courage of Hopelessness’. Something which I haven’t read however that shouldn’t stop me from discussing it, or so the author alluded in lively debate. Will Self was the contrarian and antagonist who questioned the text with academic vigor, occasionally however falling back on his British whiteness and loquaciousness to provide colloquial cheap laughs and disrupt the flow of Zizek and the rhythm of debate.
Over the course of an hour and a half the pair entered the heady ground of philosophy where members of the audience were either lost or engaged. I was lost however I was reassured by Slavoj who suggested that I needn’t read Lacon as Will Self asked him the importance of Lacon and others in the coming revolution/ catastrophic event. This was Will Self’s over-riding line of questioning – “what can we do then?” This hopelessness was exasperating eventually. Not having read the book I couldn’t side with the critique however I have seen the Chomsky Zizek spat played out on youtube and it seemed Self was echoing Noam. The problem with all of the figures above is that none can provide you with a vision of the future, in reality. Their “intellectual grandstanding” is either contagious or as bad as each other. The key point Slavoj made was “Learn, learn, learn, learn.” This was his activism, and all the other isms that Will Self could throw at him. Self’s major critique is inherent in his main point of argument, one of systemic violence, which remained unanswered by Zizek and Self himself. Something which any conscious and mindful human will have wrestled with since becoming conscious and human.
My own point of view is that hypocrisy is innate. This is something I have argued for time, blud. I think that in our society it is impossible to be good or evil or to even split the two. The large scale implications of small acts are impossible to judge without causing serious dilemma and anguish. The balancing act of living make in a “good” manner is so riddled with pitfalls that it is impossible, this surely highlights the failures of our current capitalism better than anything. You just have to hope that the outcome outweighs the contributing factors. The two examples that I could think of were;
1. I don’t approve of the actions of Starbucks but have a serious headache due to caffeine deficiency, which has devolved through a local social enterprise. In order to stop my headache do I go to the only nearby caffeine outlet which happens to be Starbucks?Ya know?
2. A war is being fought over the minerals in a certain region. The population of the country is likely to incur serious mortality due to this war. Over the border, a tyrant has been over thrown as a result of the other countries mineral output in newly spread mobile phones. The population of the newly free state is similar to that of the state at war and now free however the war over the border now seems likely to end.
What if you vote Corbyn? This was discussed. As well as the idea of a elite hierarchic who have ultimate control. Both ideas seemed reasonable at the time. But neither would change anything. I mean… Fuck. Then they started to talk about the idea of Bio-robotics and other such stuff which I haven’t the time or energy to think about yet. Which is ok apparently, just expect to be part of the underclass. Then a Chinese guys asked a question, and along the way, he said “Confusion is progress.” Which is confucius- n in itself. Geddit.
But that was actually the best thing, I hope he’s right.
This evening got me thing about my long held belief that we cannot achieve a truly equal socialism until after the singularity. But let me explain that another time. It’s as a consequence of capitalism and technology, ya dig. Also, will Will Self read this? No as its in a deep corner of the internet, but if it were somewhere popular, does he use computers? If a Will Self reading on the internet thinks about a Slavoj Zizek book, is he violent?
Also, Will Self’s pushing for an answer on what do we do was not only unanswered by himself but irrelevant if Zizek is a commentator and not a philosopher. He is a guide for those who are looking to take the path. Whether anyone takes the path, or he is helpful along that path is up for debate.
I’ll try and find the video recorded on the night so you can see why my heads turned.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
The saber rattling and harsh rhetoric during the current nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula should remind mankind of something we have forgotten. Atomic weapons are terrifying things, and talk of using them should be a taboo subject.
A week or so ago, I found myself reading Agatha Christie’s 80th, and penultimate, book, "Passenger to Frankfurt," and its relevance to today struck me. The book was published in 1970, with the subtitle “an extravaganza,” is an utter failure and was often characterized as an “incomprehensible muddle”; however, this "muddle" is not due to Christie’s old age or senility: instead, its causes are clearly political.
Passenger to Frankfurt is Christie’s most personal, intimately felt, and at the same time most political novel. It expresses her personal confusion, her feeling of being totally at a loss with what was going on in the world in the late 1960s – the drugs, the sexual revolution, student protests, murders, etc. So it's no wonder that Passenger to Frankfurt is not a detective novel. There is no murder, no logic, and deduction. This feeling of the collapse of the elementary cognitive mapping, this overwhelming fear of chaos, is rendered precisely in Christie’s introduction to the novel:“Hold up a mirror to 1970 in England. Look at that front page every day for a month, make notes, consider and classify. Every day there is a killing. A girl strangled. An elderly woman attacked and robbed of her meager savings. Young men or boys attacking or attacked. Buildings and telephone kiosks smashed and gutted. Drug smuggling. Robbery and assault. Children missing and children’s murdered bodies found not far from their homes. Can this be England? Is England really like this? Not yet, but it could be. Fear is awakening, a fear of what may be. And not only in our own country. There are smaller paragraphs on other pages giving news from Europe, from Asia, from the Americas, in Worldwide News. Hi-jacking of planes. Kidnapping. Violence. Riots. Hate. Anarchy. All growing stronger. All seeming to lead to worship of destruction, pleasure in cruelty. What does it all mean?”Is our era with “leaders” like Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un not as crazy as her vision? Are we today not all like a bunch of passengers to Frankfurt?So what does all this mean? In the novel, Christie provides her answer – a terrible worldwide conspiracy which has something to do with Richard Wagner and "The Young Siegfried." We learn that, toward the end of World War II, Hitler went to a mental institution, met with a group of people who thought they were Hitler, and exchanged places with one of them, thus surviving the war. He then escaped to Argentina where he married and had a son who was branded with a swastika on his heel – “The Young Siegfried.” Meanwhile, in the book's present, drugs, promiscuity, and student protests are all secretly caused by Nazi agitators who want to bring about anarchy so that they can restore Nazi domination on a world scale.
This “terrible worldwide conspiracy” is, of course, ideological fantasy at its purest: a weird condensation of the fear of extreme right and extreme left. The least we can say to Christie’s credit is that she locates the heart of the conspiracy to the extreme right (neo-Nazis) and not in any of the other usual suspects (Communism, Jews, Muslims, etc.). The idea neo-Nazis were behind the ’68 student protesters and sexual liberation struggle, with its obvious madness, nonetheless bears witness to the disintegration of a consistent cognitive mapping of our predicament.
Christie is compelled to take refuge in such a crazy paranoiac construct as the only way to introduce some order and meaning into the utter confusion and panic she found herself in. But is her vision really too crazy to be taken seriously? Is our era with “leaders” like Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un not as crazy as her vision? Are we today not all like a bunch of passengers to Frankfurt? Our situation is messy in a way very similar to the one described by Christie: a rightist government enforcing workers’ rights (in Poland), a leftist government pursuing the strictest austerity politics (in Greece). Thus, it's no wonder that, to regain a minimal cognitive mapping, Christie resorts to WWII, “the last good war,” retranslating our mess into its coordinates.
One should nonetheless note how the very form of Christie’s answer (one big secret agent behind it all) strangely mirrors the fascist idea of the Jewish conspiracy: how there is one big Nazi plot behind which lies the explanation to everything. And, today, the extreme populist right proposes a similar explanation of the Muslim immigrant “threat.” In antisemitic imaginary, the “Jew” is the invisible master who secretly pulls the strings, which is why Muslim immigrants are NOT today's Jews: they are all too visible, not invisible. They are clearly not integrated into our societies, and nobody claims they secretly pull strings - if one sees in their “invasion of Europe” a secret plot, then Jews have to be behind it. As was the case in a text that recently appeared in one of the main Slovenian Rightist weekly journals where we could read: “George Soros is one of the most depraved and dangerous people of our time,” responsible for “the invasion of the negroid and Semitic hordes and thereby for the twilight of the EU... as a typical Talmudo-Zionist, he is a deadly enemy of Western civilization, the nation-state and white, European man.”
His goal is to build a “rainbow coalition composed of social marginals like faggots, feminists, Muslims and work-hating cultural Marxists,” which would then perform “a deconstruction of the nation-state, and transform the EU into a multicultural dystopia of the United States of Europe.” Furthermore, Soros is inconsistent in his promotion of multiculturalism: “He promotes it exclusively in Europe and the USA, while in the case of Israel, he, in a way which is for me totally justified, agrees with its monoculturalism, latent racism and building a wall. In contrast to the EU and USA, he also does not demand from Israel to open its borders and accept ‘refugees.' A hypocrisy appropriate to Talmudo-Zionism.”[Quoted from Bernard Brščič, ‘George Soros is one of the most depraved and dangerous people of our time’ (in Slovene), Demokracija, August 25 2016, p. 15.]
This is the end?
Is this disgusting fantasy which brings together antisemitism and Islamophobia so different from the one staged by Christie? Are they both not a desperate attempt to orient oneself in confused times? The extreme oscillations in the public perception of the Korean crisis are significant as such. One week we are told we are on the brink of nuclear war, then there is a week of respite, then the war threat explodes again. When I visited Seoul in August 2017, my friends there told me there is no significant threat of a war since the North Korean regime knows it cannot survive it, but now the South Korean authorities are preparing the population for a nuclear war.
In such a situation, where the apocalypse is on the horizon, one should bear in mind the standard logic of probability no longer applies, we need a different logic, described by Jean-Pierre Dupuy: “The catastrophic event is inscribed into the future as destiny, for sure, but also as a contingent accident… if an outstanding event takes place, a catastrophe, for example, it could not have taken place; nonetheless, insofar as it did not occur, it is not inevitable. It is thus the event’s actualization – the fact that it takes place – which retroactively creates its necessity.”[ Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Petite metaphysique des tsunami, Paris: Seuil 2005, p. 19.] Dupuy provides the example of the French presidential elections in May 1995; here is the January forecast of the main polling Institute: “If on next May 8th, Mr (Édouard) Balladur will be elected, one can say the presidential election was decided before it even took place.”The moment we fully accept the fact that we live on Spaceship Earth, the task that urgently imposes itself is that of civilizing civilizations themselves, of imposing universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities.When applied to the recent tension in Korea, this means: IF the war explodes, it will be necessary and inevitable; IF war will not explode, it was all a false alarm. This, according to Dupuy, is also how we should approach the prospect of nuclear (or ecological) catastrophe: not to “realistically” appraise the possibilities of the catastrophe, but to accept it as our fate, as unavoidable, and then, on the background of this acceptance, we should mobilize ourselves to perform the act which will change destiny itself and thereby insert a new possibility into the situation. Instead of saying “the future is still open, we still have the time to act and prevent the worst,” one should accept the catastrophe as inevitable, and then work to undo what is already “written in the stars” as our destiny.
What is needed is no less than a new global anti-nuclear movement, a global mobilization that would exert pressure on nuclear powers and act aggressively, organizing mass protests and boycotts, while denouncing our leaders as criminals and the like. It should focus not only on North Korea but also on those super-powers who assume the right to monopolize nuclear weapons. The very public mention of the use of nuclear weapons should be treated as a criminal offense. And more than that, a global change in our stance is needed, what Peter Sloterdijk calls “the domestication of the wild animal culture.”
Till now, each culture disciplined and educated its own members and guaranteed civic peace among them in the guise of state power, but the relationship between different cultures and states was permanently under the shadow of potential war, with each state of peace nothing more than a temporary armistice. As Hegel conceptualized it, the entire ethic of a state culminates in the highest act of heroism, the readiness to sacrifice one’s life for one’s nation-state, which means that the wild barbarian relations between states serve as the foundation of the ethical life within a state. Is today’s North Korea with its ruthless pursuit of nuclear weapons, and rockets to deliver them to distant targets, not the ultimate example of this logic of unconditional nation-state sovereignty?
However, the moment we fully accept the fact that we live on Spaceship Earth, the task that urgently imposes itself is that of civilizing civilizations themselves, of imposing universal solidarity and cooperation among all human communities. A task rendered all the more difficult by the ongoing rise of sectarian religious and ethnic “heroic” violence and readiness to sacrifice oneself (and the world) for one’s specific cause.
-Slavoj Zizek, "Korean nuclear tension: Apocalypse... almost now"
“The Savage nodded, frowning. "You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them...But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy."― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
..."What you need," the Savage went on, "is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here.”
“Isn't there something in living dangerously?'― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
There's a great deal in it,' the Controller replied. 'Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.'
What?' questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.
It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.'
Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconvenience.'
But I like the inconveniences.'
We don't,' said the Controller. 'We prefer to do things comfortably.'
But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.'
In fact,' said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy. Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer, the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.' There was a long silence.
I claim them all,' said the Savage at last.
Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. 'You're welcome,' he said.”
“I like being myself. Myself and nasty.”― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“No social stability without individual stability.”― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“...reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays....”― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“Ending is better than mending.”― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
-Robert Southey, "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them" (1799)
"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."
"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abus'd not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last.
"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."
"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past."
"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And life must be hast'ning away;
You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."
"I am cheerful, young man," father William replied,
"Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age."
-Lewis Carroll, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1865)
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"
"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling a box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"
"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."
"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"
"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Body so fit
So full of spark
As your wall art
You were driven
Eyes on the prize
A yoga routine
Now like the faded star
In sunset blvd
I play the devoted butler
Morning coffees by the bed
while all hard fought endeavours
bring in diminished returns
You’re so cool, it’s true
You’re my kind of girl
Keep you ’til the end
Find solace in the privilege to pursue
Most people are crushed into servitude
Friday, September 15, 2017
Hurricane Irma will happen again – so we need the answers to some difficult questions about global politics.
What if northern Siberia becomes more inhabitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large sub-Saharan regions become too dry for a large population to live there – how will the exchange of populations be organised? And what if a new gigantic volcanic eruption makes the whole of an island uninhabitable – where will the people of that island move?-Slavoj Zizek, "Hurricane Irma will happen again – so we need the answers to some difficult questions about global politics"
Reading and watching reports on the devastating effect of Hurricane Irma this week, I was reminded of Trisolaris, a strange planet from The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin’s sci-fi masterpiece.
A scientist is drawn into a virtual reality game called “Three Body” in which players find themselves on the alien planet Trisolaris whose three suns rise and set at strange and unpredictable intervals: sometimes far too far away and horribly cold, sometimes far too close and destructively hot, and sometimes not seen for long periods of time.
Life is a constant struggle against apparently unpredictable elements. Despite that, players slowly find ways to build civilisations and attempt to predict the strange cycles of heat and cold.
Do phenomena like Irma not demonstrate that our Earth itself is gradually turning into Trisolaris? Devastating hurricanes, droughts and floods warming – do they all not indicate that we are witnessing something the only appropriate name for which is “the end of nature”? “Nature” is to be understood here in the traditional sense of a regular rhythm of seasons, the reliable background of human history, something on which we can count to always be there.
It is difficult for an outsider to imagine how it feels when a vast domain of densely populated land disappears underwater, so that millions are deprived of the very basic coordinates of their life-world: the land with its fields, but also with its cultural monuments, is no longer there, so that, although in the midst of water, they are in a way like fishes out of water – it is as if the environs thousands of generations were taking as the most obvious foundation of their lives start to crack.
Similar catastrophes were, of course, known for centuries, some even from the very prehistory of humanity. What is new today is that, since we live in a “disenchanted” post-religious era, such catastrophes can no longer be rendered meaningful as part of a larger natural cycle or as an expression of divine wrath.
This is how, back in 1906, William James described his reaction to an earthquake: “Emotion consisted wholly of glee, and admiration. Glee at the vividness which such an abstract idea as 'earthquake' could take on when verified concretely and translated into sensible reality ... and admiration at the way in which the frail little wooden house could hold itself together in spite of such a shaking. I felt no trace whatever of fear; it was pure delight and welcome.” How far we are here from the shattering of the very foundations of one's life-world!
Nature is more and more in disorder, not because it overwhelms our cognitive capacities but primarily because we are not able to master the effects of our own interventions into its course – who knows what the ultimate consequences of our biogenetic engineering or of global warming will be?
The surprise comes from ourselves, it concerns the opacity of how we ourselves fit into the picture: the impenetrable stain in the picture is not some cosmic mystery like a mysterious explosion of a supernova: the stain are we ourselves, our collective activity. This is what we call “Anthropocene”: a new epoch in the life of our planet in which we, humans, cannot any longer rely on the Earth as a reservoir ready to absorb the consequences of our productive activity.
We have to accept that we live on a “Spaceship Earth”, responsible and accountable for its conditions. At the very moment when we become powerful enough to affect the most basic conditions of our life, we have to accept that we are just another animal species on a small planet. A new way to relate to our enviroment is necessary once we realise this: we should become modest agents collaborating with our environs, permanently negotiating a tolerable level of stability, with no inherent formula which guarantees our safety.
Does this mean that we should assume a defensive approach and search for a new limit, a return to (or, rather, the invention of) some new balance? This is what the predominant ecology proposes us to do, and the same task is pursued by bioethics with regard to biotechnology: biotechnology pursues new possibilities of scientific interventions (genetic manipulations, cloning and so on), and bioethics endeavours to impose moral limitations on what biotechnology enables us to do.
As such, bioethics is not immanent to scientific practice: it intervenes into this practice from the outside, imposing external morality onto it. One can even say that bioethics is the betrayal of the aims of scientific endeavour, the aims which say: “Do not compromise your scientific desire; follow inexorably its path.” Such attempts at limitation fail because they ignore the fact that there is no objective limit: we are discovering that the object itself – nature – is not stable.
Sceptics like to point out the limitation of our knowledge about what goes on in nature – however, this limitation in no way implies that we should not exaggerate the ecological threat. On the contrary, we should be even more careful about it, since the situation is profoundly unpredictable. The recent uncertainties about global warming do not signal that things are not too serious, but that they are even more chaotic than we thought, and that natural and social factors are inextricably linked.
Can we then use capitalism itself against this threat? Although capitalism can easily turn ecology into a new field of capitalist investment and competition, the very nature of the risk involved fundamentally precludes a market solution – why?
Capitalism only works in precise social conditions: it implies the trust into the objectivised mechanism of the market’s “invisible hand” which, as a kind of Cunning of Reason, guarantees that the competition of individual egotisms works for the common good. However, we are in the midst of a radical change: what looms on the horizon today is the unheard-of possibility that a subjective intervention will trigger an ecological catastrophe, a fateful biogenetic mutation, a nuclear or similar military-social catastrophy, and so on. For the first time in human history, the act of a single socio-political agent effectively can alter and even interrupt the global historical and even natural process.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy refers to the theory of complex systems which accounts for their two opposite features: their robust stable character and their extreme vulnerability. These systems can accommodate themselves to great disturbances, integrate them and find new balance and stability – up to a certain threshold (a “tipping point”) above which a small disturbance can cause a total catastrophe and lead to the establishment of a totally different order.
For long centuries, humanity did not have to worry about the impact on the enviroment of its productive activities – nature was able to accommodate itself to deforestation, to the use of coal and oil, and so on. However, one cannot be sure if, today, we are not approaching a tipping point – one really cannot be sure, since such points can be clearly perceived only once it is already too late, in retrospect.
Apropos of the urgency to do something about today's threat of different ecological catastrophes: either we take this threat seriously and decide today to do things which, if the catastrophe will not occur, will appear ridiculous; or we do nothing and lose everything in the case of catastrophe. The worst case scenario would be to take a "middle ground" solution with a limited amount of measures – in this case, we will fail as there is no middle ground in reality. In such a situation, the talk about anticipation, precaution and risk control tends to become meaningless.
This is why there is something deceptively reassuring in the readiness of the theorists of anthropocene to blame us, humans, for the threats to our environment: we like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, then it all depends on us. We pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives. What is really difficult for us (at least for us in the West) to accept is that we are also (to some unknown degree) impotent observers who can only sit and watch what their fate will be.
To avoid such a situation, we are prone to engage in a frantic obsessive activity, recycle old paper, buy organic food, whatever, just so that we can be sure that we are doing something, making our contribution – like a soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in a superstitious belief that this will somehow influence the outcome.
The main lesson to be learned is therefore that humankind should get ready to live in a more flexible or nomadic way: local or global changes in environment may impose the need for unheard — of large scale social tranformations.
Let us say that a new gigantic volcanic eruption makes the whole of an island uninhabitable – where will the people of that island move? Under what conditions? Should they be given a piece of land or just be dispersed around the world?
What if northern Siberia becomes more inhabitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large sub-Saharan regions become too dry for a large population to live there – how will the exchange of populations be organised?
When similar things happened in the past, social changes occurred in a wild and spontaneous way, with violence and destruction. Such a prospect would be catastrophic in today's conditions, with arms of mass destruction available to all nations.
One thing is clear: national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new levels of global cooperation invented. And what about the immense changes in economy and consummation due to new weather patterns or shortages of water and energy sources? Through what processes of decision will such changes be decided and executed? It’s time to answer these difficult questions.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
- William Shakespeare, "Sonnet XX"
A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.
Monday, September 11, 2017
- Thomas Stearns Eliot, "Sweeney Erect" (1920)
And the trees about me,
Let them be dry and leafless; let the rocks
Groan with continual surges; and behind me
Make all a desolation.
Look, look, wenches!
PAINT me a cavernous waste shore
Cast in the unstilled Cyclades,
Paint me the bold anfractuous rocks
Faced by the snarled and yelping seas.
Display me Aeolus above
Reviewing the insurgent gales
Which tangle Ariadne’s hair
And swell with haste the perjured sails.
Morning stirs the feet and hands
(Nausicaa and Polypheme).
Gesture of orang-outang
Rises from the sheets in steam.
This withered root of knots of hair
Slitted below and gashed with eyes,
This oval O cropped out with teeth:
The sickle motion from the thighs
Jackknifes upward at the knees
Then straightens out from heel to hip
Pushing the framework of the bed
And clawing at the pillow slip.
Sweeney addressed full length to shave
Broadbottomed, pink from nape to base,
Knows the female temperament
And wipes the suds around his face.
(The lengthened shadow of a man
Is history, said Emerson
Who had not seen the silhouette
Of Sweeney straddled in the sun.)
Tests the razor on his leg
Waiting until the shriek subsides.
The epileptic on the bed
Curves backward, clutching at her sides.
The ladies of the corridor
Find themselves involved, disgraced,
Call witness to their principles
And deprecate the lack of taste
Observing that hysteria
Might easily be misunderstood;
Mrs. Turner intimates
It does the house no sort of good.
But Doris, towelled from the bath,
Enters padding on broad feet,
Bringing sal volatile
And a glass of brandy neat.
Break the silence
Come crashing in
Into my little world
Painful to me
Pierce right through me
Can't you understand?
Oh my little girl
All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
Vows are spoken
To be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
So does the pain
Words are meaningless
All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary
They can only do harm
Saturday, September 9, 2017
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven -- an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue -- and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange -- the fifth with white -- the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet -- a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.
It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.
But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.
He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm -- much of what has been since seen in "Hernani." There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these -- the dreams -- writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away -- they have endured but an instant -- and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.
But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise -- then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.
In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood -- and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.
When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.
"Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him -- "who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him -- that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!"
It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly -- for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.
It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple -- through the purple to the green -- through the green to the orange -- through this again to the white -- and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry -- and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
Friday, September 8, 2017
- Tim Miller, "Impending Doom"
The impending doom seals our fate
All our work is to culminate
For force majeure is at hand
To swiftly bring what is planned
In the penultimate hour, the chance has gone
The wonders lost are never known
Lonesome moments of contrite
Wondering if we were right
Judgement day shall come for all
Were we misled, always destined to take that fall
Or did we know, the sacrifice
Made for the betterment of mankind
Are we the martyrs of our time
Expecting grace for our crime
Has our knowing, nulled the just
Or were our actions just enough
Moral fortitude tipping the scale
Releasing us from the sale
These are but the humble thoughts of one
Knowing not what I am to become