Watch the band through a bunch of dancers
Quickly, follow the unknown
With something more familiar
Quickly, something familiar.
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter.
Sleepwalk, so fast asleep
In a motel that has the lay of home
And piss on all of your background
And piss on all your surroundings.
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter
Courage, couldn't come at a worse time.
There's no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
And yea the human tragedy
Consists in the necessity
Of living with the consequences
Under pressure, under pressure.
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter
Courage, my word
Didn't come, it doesn't matter
Courage, couldn't come at a worse time.
And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
When does one belong to a community (Gemeinschaft)? The difference concerns the netherworld of unwritten obscene rules which regulate the "inherent transgression" of the community, the way we are allowed/expected to violate its explicit rules. This is why the subject who closely follows the explicit rules of a community will never be accepted by its members as "one of us": he does not participate in the transgressive rituals which effectively keep this community together.-Slavoj Zizek, "The Act and Its Vicissitudes" (excerpt)
And society (Geseilschaft) as opposed to community is a collective which can dispense with this set of unwritten rules—since this is impossible, there is no society without community.
This is where the theories which advocate the subversive character of mimicry get it wrong; according to these theories, the properly subversive attitude of the Other—say, of a colonized subject who lives under the domination of the colonizing culture—is to mimic the dominant discourse, but with a distance, so that what he does and says is like what the colonizers themselves do... almost like it, with an unfathomable difference which makes his Otherness all the more palpable.
One is tempted to turn this thesis around: it is the foreigner emulating faithfully the rules of the dominant culture he wants to penetrate and identify with, who is condemned forever to remain an outsider, because he fails to practice, to participate in, the self-distance of the dominant culture, the unwritten rules which tell us how and when to violate the explicit rules of this culture. We are "in," integrated in a culture, perceived by their members as "one of us," only when we succeed in practicing this unfathomable DISTANCE from the symbolic rules—it is ultimately only this distance which exhibits our identity, our belonging to the culture in question.
And the subject reaches the level of a true ethical stance only when he moves beyond this duality of the public rules as well as their superego shadow;
in John Irving's The Cider-House Rules, these three levels of ethics are staged in an exemplary way. First, we get the straight morality (the set of explicit rules we choose to obey—Homer Wells, the novel's hero, chooses never to perform an abortion); then, we experience its obscene underside—this is what takes place in the "cider house" in which, while on seasonal work there, Homer learns that explicit rules are sustained by more obscene implicit rules with which it is better not to mess); finally, when, based on this experience, Homer acknowledges the necessity to BREAK the explicit moral rules (he performs an abortion), he reaches the level of ethics proper. And does the same not go also for Nicole in The Sweet Hereafter? Is Nicole's act not the gesture of asserting her distance towards both poles, the larger society as well as the "sweet hereafter" of the traumatized community and its secret rules?
...and perhaps we all need to just accept the fact that we'll always be a "little on the outside" of any "community" to which we attempt to belong, and that this is "necessary" for the "good" of our greater Society.
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladle's,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
At last the people in a body
To the town hall came flocking:
"'Tis clear," cried they, 'our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation--shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.
An hour they sat in council,
At length the Mayor broke silence:
"For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell,
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain--
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I've scratched it so, and all in vain
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!"
Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
"Bless us,' cried the Mayor, "what's that?"
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle, green and glutinous)
"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
"Come in!"--the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in--
There was no guessing his kith and kin!
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: "It's as if my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"
He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders--
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?"
"One? Fifty thousand!" was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.
Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives--
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished!
‹Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, "At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, 'Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast dry-saltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said 'Come bore me!'
-- I found the Weser rolling o'er me."
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"-- when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
"Beside," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!
The Piper's face fell, and he cried,
"No trifling! I can't wait! Beside,
I've promised to visit by dinnertime
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head-Cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor--
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion."
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d'ye think I brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"
Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step or cry,
To the children merrily skipping by--
And could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its water's
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop
And we shall see our children stop!
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,--
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me.
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!
Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says that heaven's gate
Opens to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in!
The mayor sent East, West, North and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth
Wherever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear:
"And so long after what happened here
On the twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six;"
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children's last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper's Street,
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn,
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That, in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
To the outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why they don't understand.
So, Willy, let you and me be wipers
Of scores out with all men--especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free, from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them ought, let us keep our promise.
Monday, May 27, 2019
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Israeli criticism of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is somewhat justified, but those who won’t equally blast the apartheid politics of the state of Israel have no moral high ground from which to preach.
First off, a confession. I’ve always had a problem with the BDS movement which promotes various forms of embargoes against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law (which are withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank and full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel).
While I fully support these goals, my reluctance towards BDS was based on two main reasons. One, in the current situation when anti-Semitism really is alive in Europe, it’s dangerous to play with the idea of blacklisting. Two, why should we not also boycott China for what the Chinese state is doing to Uyghurs?
Of course, the cynical response from my BDS friends is that such tactics would not work on China but may work against Israel. But are they for real? Such reasoning implies weird ethics: punish the relatively weak, not the really bad.
Here is an example of the excess of BDS. When, a couple of years ago, I visited the Jerusalem film festival to promote the pro-Palestinian film of my friend Udi Aloni, I was attacked for participating in an Israeli state sponsored event.
A BDS fanatic asked me if I was aware how my visit to Jerusalem was the same as journeying to Berlin in 1938? Indeed, there was even an ‘open letter’ circulating on the web which criticized me for accepting the invitation.
My reply was: the visit was paid by myself and Udi and I was presented by Udi as his personal quest, not the festival’s guest. Plus if we leave aside the problematic nature of the parallel between Jerusalem and the Nazi Berlin, yes, if I were to be invited to Berlin in 1938 to promote a film celebrating Jewish resistance to the Nazis, I would have gladly accepted it. Not that Hitler’s regime would have allowed it, naturally.
However, when, in May 2019, the German Bundestag passed a non-binding resolution declaring BDS anti-Semitic, alarm bells began to ring. Because the idea of BDS being anti-Semitic is questionable.
For instance, all my links to BDS are through Jewish friends who are part of it, and this was the idea from the beginning: a joint action of West bank Palestinians with Israeli Jews who oppose the occupation of the West Bank.
Thus, quite obviously, something else is going on here: an obscene and diabolical pact between Zionists and true European racists. As a consequence, the sacred memory of the Holocaust is being mobilized to legitimize the corrupted politics of today: the apartheid practiced against Palestinians. And it’s those who do it who are the true desecrators of the Holocaust.
The privileged role of Jews in the establishment of the sphere of the “public use of reason” hinges on their subtraction from every state power. It’s this position of the “part of no-part” of every organic nation state community, not the abstract-universal nature of their monotheism, which makes them the immediate embodiment of universality.
So, it’s no wonder, then, that, with the establishment of the Jewish nation state, a new type of Jewish person emerged. A Jewish person resisting identification with the state of Israel, and refusing to accept the state of Israel as his true home. Best described as a Jew who “subtracts” himself from this state, and who includes the state of Israel among the states towards which he insists on maintaining a distance.
And it’s this uncanny Jew who is the object of what one cannot but designate as “Zionist anti-Semitism,” the foreign excess disturbing the nation state community. These Jews, the “Jews of the Jews themselves,” worthy successors of Spinoza, are today the only Jews who continue to insist on the “public use of reason,” refusing to submit their reasoning to the “private” domain of the nation state.
This paradox of Zionist anti-Semitism enables us also to solve another enigma: how can US Christian fundamentalists, who are by their nature anti-Semitic, now passionately support the Zionist policy of the state of Israel? There is only one solution to this enigma: it is not that the US fundamentalists changed, it is that Zionism itself, in its hatred of the Jews who do not fully identify with the politics of the state of Israel, paradoxically became anti-Semitic, i.e., they constructed the figure of Jews who doubt the Zionist project along the anti-Semitic lines.
If you want further proof of this, remember how just before the last Israeli elections, on March 19, a campaign advert was released in which Ayelet Shaked, the right-wing justice minister, moving in slow motion, appears to be modeling for a luxury perfume.
The perfume bottle label reads “Fascism,” and while Shaked sprays herself with it, the narrator’s voice is heard: “Judiciary revolution. Reducing activism. Appointment of judges. Governance. Separation of authorities. Restraining of the Supreme Court.” Finally the minister breaks the fourth wall and addresses directly the camera, saying: “Smells like democracy to me.”
The (rather clumsy) irony of the ad is clear: Shaked’s left-liberal critics attack her for (what they perceive as) the fascist elements in her program (and in the measures enforced by her ministry). But in her reply to these critics, she ironically assumes the term ‘fascist,’ while the voice lists her actual measures which are democratic.
Although Shaked tried to overcome Netanyahu from the right, Netanyahu took the same path in his statements on Instagram where, after asserting that all citizens of Israel, including Arabs, had equal rights, he added: “Israel is not a state of all its citizens.” This referred to the controversial law passed last year declaring Israel to be the nation state of the Jewish people.
Yet, we would come closer to truth if we simply turned Shaked’s ad on its head – she instead sprays herself with a perfume called “democracy” while a narrator enumerates her achievements: the apartheid system with second-class citizens, leaving more than a million of Palestinians in a legal limbo, bombings of civilians… and then a passer-by (not Shaked herself) comments: “Smells like Fascism to me.”
The true political goal of the ongoing campaign against BDS is to legitimize the stance shared by Shaked and Netanyahu. Our answer to all those who support this campaign should thus be: those who are not ready to criticize the apartheid politics of the state of Israel should also keep silent about the possible excesses of BDS.
Friday, May 24, 2019
-Slavoj Zizek, "Game of Thrones tapped into fears of revolution and political women – and left us no better off than before"
So justice prevailed – but what kind of justice?
The last season of the Game of Thrones has prompted public outcry and culminated in a petition (signed by almost 1 million outraged viewers) to disqualify the entire season and re-shoot a new one. The ferocity of the debate is in itself a proof that the ideological stakes must be high.
The dissatisfaction turned on a couple of points: bad scenario (under the pressure to quickly end the series, the complexity of the narrative was simplified), bad psychology (Daenerys’ turn to “Mad Queen” was not justified by her character development), etc.
One of the few intelligent voices in the debate was that of the author Stephen King who noted that dissatisfaction was not generated by the bad ending but the fact of the ending itself. In our epoch of series which in principle could go on indefinitely, the idea of narrative closure becomes intolerable.
It is true that, in the series’ swift denouement, a strange logic takes over, a logic that does not violate credible psychology but rather the narrative presuppositions of a TV series. In the last season, it is simply the preparation for a battle, mourning and destruction after the battle, and of the battler itself in all its meaninglessness – much more realistic for me than the usual gothic melodramatic plots.
Season eight stages three consecutive struggles. The first one is between humanity and its inhuman “Others” (the Night Army from the North led by the Night King); between the two main groups of humans (the evil Lannisters and the coalition against them led by Daenerys and Starks); and the inner conflict between Daenerys and the Starks.
This is why the battles in season eight follow a logical path from an external opposition to the inner split: the defeat of the inhuman Night Army, the defeat of Lannisters and the destruction of King’s Landing; the last struggle between the Starks and Daenerys – ultimately between traditional “good” nobility (Starks) faithfully protecting their subjects from bad tyrants, and Daenerys as a new type of a strong leader, a kind of progressive bonapartist acting on behalf of the underprivileged.
The stakes in the final conflict are thus: should the revolt against tyranny be just a fight for the return of the old kinder version of the same hierarchical order, or should it develop into the search for a new order that is needed?
The finale combines the rejection of a radical change with an old anti-feminist motif at work in Wagner. For Wagner, there is nothing more disgusting than a woman who intervenes in political life, driven by the desire for power. In contrast to male ambition, a woman wants power in order to promote her own narrow family interests or, even worse, her personal caprice, incapable as she is of perceiving the universal dimension of state politics.
The same femininity which, within the close circle of family life, is the power of protective love, turns into obscene frenzy when displayed at the level of public and state affairs. Recall the lowest point in the dialogue of Game of Thrones when Daenerys tells Jon that if he cannot love her as a queen then fear should reign – the embarrassing, vulgar motif of a sexually unsatisfied woman who explodes into destructive fury.
But – let’s bite our sour apple now – what about Daenerys’ murderous outbursts? Can the ruthless killing of the thousands of ordinary people in King’s Landing really be justified as a necessary step to universal freedom? At this point, we should remember that the scenario was written by two men.
Daenerys as the Mad Queen is strictly a male fantasy, so the critics were right when they pointed out that her descent into madness was psychologically not justified. The view of Daenerys with mad-furious expression flying on a dragon and burning houses and people expresses patriarchal ideology with its fear of a strong political woman.
The final destiny of the leading women in Game of Thrones fits these coordinates. Even if the good Daenerys wins and destroys the bad Cersei, power corrupts her. Arya (who saved them all by single-handedly killing the Night King) also disappears, sailing to the West of the West (as if to colonise America).
The one who remains (as the queen of the autonomous kingdom of the North) is Sansa, a type of women beloved by today’s capitalism: she combines feminine softness and understanding with a good dose of intrigue, and thus fully fits the new power relations. This marginalisation of women is a key moment of the general liberal-conservative lesson of the finale: revolutions have to go wrong, they bring new tyranny, or, as Jon put it to Daenerys:“The people who follow you know that you made something impossible happen. Maybe that helps them believe that you can make other impossible things happen: build a world that’s different from the shit one they’ve always known. But if you use dragons to melt castles and burn cities, you’re no different.”Consequently, Jon kills out of love (saving the cursed woman from herself, as the old male-chauvinist formula says) the only social agent in the series who really fought for something new, for a new world that would put an end to old injustices.
So justice prevailed – but what kind of justice? The new king is Bran: crippled, all-knowing, who wants nothing – with the evocation of the insipid wisdom that the best rulers are those who do not want power. A dismissive laughter that ensues when one of the new elite proposes a more democratic selection of the king tells it all.
And one cannot help but note that those faithful to Daenerys to the end are more diverse – her military commander is black – while the new rulers are clearly white Nordic. The radical queen who wanted more freedom for everyone irrespective of their social standing and race is eliminated, things are brought back to normal.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chinese citizens are monitored to such a degree that they can be barred from buying plane and train tickets for unpaid taxes and fines. Slowly but surely, this is the future we are moving towards
The media bombards us with news about the threats to our security: will China invade Taiwan as a punishment for the US trade war? Will the US attack Iran? Will the EU descend into chaos after the Brexit mess? But I think there is one topic which – in the long view, at least – dwarfs all others: the effort of the US to contain the expansion of Huawei. Why?
Today’s digital network controls and regulates our lives: most of our activities (and passivities) are now registered in some digital cloud that also permanently evaluates us, tracing not only our acts but also our emotional states. When we experience ourselves as free to the utmost (surfing in the web where everything is available), we are totally “externalised” and subtly manipulated. The digital network gives new meaning to the old slogan “the personal is political”.
And it’s not only the control of our intimate lives that is at stake: everything today is regulated by some digital network, from transport to health, from electricity to water. That’s why, today, the web is our most important “commons” (the term Marx used to describe the shared social space which constitutes the base of our interaction), and the struggle for its control is the most important struggle today. The enemy is the combination of privatised and state-controlled commons, corporations (Google, Facebook) and state security agencies (NSA).
This fact alone renders insufficient the traditional liberal notion of representative power: citizens transfer part of their power to the state, but on precise terms (this power is constrained by law, limited to very precise conditions in the way it is exercised, since the people remain the ultimate source of sovereignty and can repeal power if they decide so). In short, the state with its power is the minor partner in a contract that the major partner (the people) can at any point repeal or change, basically in the same way each of us can change the supermarket where we buy our provisions.
The digital network that regulates the functioning of our societies as well as their control mechanisms is the ultimate figure of the technical grid that sustains power today. Shoshana Zuboff baptised this new phase of capitalism “surveillance capitalism”: “Knowledge, authority and power rest with surveillance capital, for which we are merely ‘human natural resources’. We are the native peoples now whose tacit claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.”
We are not just material, we are also exploited, involved in an unequal exchange, which is why the term “behavioural surplus” (playing the role of surplus-value) is fully justified here: when we are surfing, buying, watching TV etc, we get what we want, but we give more – we lay ourselves bare, we make the details of our life and its habits transparent to the digital “big Other”.
The paradox is, of course, that we experience this unequal exchange, the activity which effectively enslaves us, as our highest exercise of freedom – what is more free than freely surfing on the web? Just by exerting this freedom of ours, we generate the “surplus” appropriated by the digital big Other which collects data.
And this brings us to Huawei: the battle around Huawei is the battle for who will control the mechanism which controls our lives. It’s maybe the crucial power struggle that is going on. Huawei is not just a private corporation, it is totally blended with Chinese state security, and we should bear in mind that its rise was largely financed and directed by the state. We already see how digitalised state control works in today’s China. This is from an Associated Press news report from February:“Would-be air travellers were blocked from buying tickets 17.5 million times last year for ‘social credit’ offences including unpaid taxes and fines under a controversial system the ruling Communist Party says will improve public behaviour. Others were barred 5.5 million times from buying train tickets, according to the National Public Credit Information Centre. In an annual report, it said 128 people were blocked from leaving China due to unpaid taxes. The ruling party says ‘social credit’ penalties and rewards will improve order in a fast-changing society after three decades of economic reform have shaken up social structures. The system is part of efforts by President Xi Jinping’s government to use technology ranging from data processing to genetic sequencing and facial recognition to tighten control.”This is the political reality of Huawei expansion. So yes, the accusations that Huawei poses a security threat to all of us are true – however, what we should bear in mind is that the Chinese authorities are just doing more openly what our “democratic” authorities do in a more subtle way, hidden from the public view. From the new law in Russia that limits access to the internet to the latest EU regulations of the web, we are witnessing the same effort to limit and control our access to the digital commons.
The digital network is arguably today’s main figure of the commons. The battle for freedom is ultimately the battle for the control of the commons, and today, this means: the battle for who will control the digital space that regulates our lives. There is one name that symbolises this struggle for the commons: Assange. We should thus avoid all easy China bashing and those who don’t want to defend Julian Assange should also keep silent about the Chinese abuses of the digital control.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Thursday, May 2, 2019
Bachelard's psychology of science
Bachelard's studies of the history and philosophy of science in such works as Le nouvel esprit scientifique ("The New Scientific Spirit", 1934) and La formation de l'esprit scientifique ("The Formation of the Scientific Mind", 1938) were based on his vision of historical epistemology as a kind of psychoanalysis of the scientific mind.
In the English-speaking world, the connection Bachelard made between psychology and the history of science has been little understood. Bachelard demonstrated how the progress of science could be blocked by certain types of mental patterns, creating the concept of obstacle épistémologique ("epistemological obstacle"). One task of epistemology is to make clear the mental patterns at use in science, in order to help scientists overcome the obstacles to knowledge.
Epistemological breaks: the discontinuity of scientific progress
Bachelard was critical of Auguste Comte's positivism, which considered science as a continual progress. To Bachelard, scientific developments such as Einstein's theory of relativity demonstrated the discontinuous nature of the history of sciences. Thus models that framed scientific development as continuous, such as that of Comte and Émile Meyerson, seemed simplistic and erroneous to Bachelard.
Through his concept of "epistemological break", Bachelard underlined the discontinuity at work in the history of sciences. However the term "epistemological break" itself is almost never used by Bachelard, but became famous through Louis Althusser.
He showed that new theories integrated old theories in new paradigms, changing the sense of concepts (for instance, the concept of mass, used by Newton and Einstein in two different senses). Thus, non-Euclidean geometry did not contradict Euclidean geometry, but integrated it into a larger framework.
The role of epistemology in science
Bachelard was a rationalist in the Cartesian sense, although he recommended his "non-Cartesian epistemology" as a replacement for the more standard Cartesian epistemology. He compared "scientific knowledge" to ordinary knowledge in the way we deal with it, and saw error as only illusion: "Scientifically, one thinks truth as the historical rectification of a persistent error, and experiments as correctives for an initial, common illusion (illusion première)."
The role of epistemology is to show the history of the (scientific) production of concepts; those concepts are not just theoretical propositions: they are simultaneously abstract and concrete, pervading technical and pedagogical activity. This explains why "The electric bulb is an object of scientific thought… an example of an abstract-concrete object." To understand the way it works, one has to take the detour of scientific knowledge. Epistemology is thus not a general philosophy that aims at justifying scientific reasoning. Instead it produces regional histories of science.
Shifts in scientific perspective
Bachelard saw how seemingly irrational theories often simply represented a drastic shift in scientific perspective. For instance, he claimed that the theory of probabilities was just another way of complexifying reality through a deepening of rationality (even though critics like Lord Kelvin found this theory irrational).
One of his main theses in The New Scientific Mind was that modern sciences had replaced the classical ontology of the substance with an "ontology of relations", which could be assimilated to something like a process philosophy. For instance, the physical concepts of matter and rays correspond, according to him, to the metaphysical concepts of the thing and of movement; but whereas classical philosophy considered both as distinct, and the thing as ontologically real, modern science can not distinguish matter from rays: it is thus impossible to examine an immobile thing, which was precisely the condition for knowledge according to classical theory of knowledge (Becoming being impossible to be known, in accordance with Aristotle and Plato's theories of knowledge).
In non-Cartesian epistemology, there is no "simple substance" as in Cartesianism, but only complex objects built by theories and experiments, and continuously improved (VI, 4). Intuition is therefore not primitive, but built (VI, 2). These themes led Bachelard to support a sort of constructivist epistemology.
Other academic interests
In addition to epistemology, Bachelard's work deals with many other topics, including poetry, dreams, psychoanalysis, and the imagination. The Psychoanalysis of Fire (1938) and The Poetics of Space (1958) are among the most popular of his works, and the latter had a wide reception in architectural theory circles. Jean-Paul Sartre cites the former and Bachelard's Water and Dreams in his Being and Nothingness (1943).
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Shows a group of five men around a table situated on the grounds of the State in Schuylkill Fishing Club. The men, who are wearing linen aprons, are identified in a pencilled caption, from left: Camac, Wagner, Lewis, Adams, Harvey. Formed in 1732, the club is believed to be the oldest social in club in the United States. It was a tradition of the club that all cooking was done by its official members. The club was originally situated on the west bank of the Schuylkill River opposite the falls of Fairmount at Girard Avenue. The clubhouse, called the Castle, is just visible on the left edge of the photograph. In 1887 it was moved to Andalusia, Nicholas Biddle's country estate on the banks of the Delaware River in Bucks County.
The Rev. Mr. Heckewelder, who is probably the best authority we have upon the Indians of this section of the country, states that Tamanend's memory was held in the highest esteem by his own people, but that he never heard them say much concerning him, as it was not their custom to talk of their dead except in a very general way, and that no white man that had any regard for their feelings ever broached the subject of their dead to them. The various traditions, both verbal and written, concerning Tamanend emanated from the whites and not from the Indians. We see that between the first record that we have of him in 1683 and the last in 1697 he must have impressed himself strongly upon not only the community but also upon the officials of the provincial government, for in the last account he is described in the deed, which of course was writ ten by the English, as the Great Sachem Tamaniens, and no other Indian is so described; so to have acquired the right to such a title he must have had at least a large part of the attributes ascribed to him. In further corroboration of the way in which his memory was held, we cite the old cannon presented by the Colony on Schuylkill to the Association Battery about 1747, on which appear the words "Kawania che Keekeru" (This is my right, I will defend it). By many writers this motto is ascribed to Tamanend, and justly so, we think, rather than to the Delaware Nation alone, for we would expect just such a sentiment to be chosen by a man endowed with such lofty ideas as these words express. (This was the motto of the Saint Tammany Society. See Independent, May 3, 1783.) Further, the records of this Society show that their principal day—May 1, or opening day—has been always spoken of by them as Tammany's day. Their tradition is that Tamanend himself made a treaty with the fathers of this Society giving them the right to fish in the waters of the Schuylkill and hunt game upon its banks.
We also find this motto at the top of the title-page of a pamphlet which is in verse: "Kawanio Che Keeteru, a true relation of a bloody battle fought between George and Lewis in the year 1755. Printed in the year MDCCLVI." Turning over the page, we find "The words I have chosen at the head of my Title Page I am told by a gentleman skilled in the Indian languages is very expressive of a Hero relying on God to bless his endeavors in protecting what he has put under his care." "To form some idea of its signification," he says, "you may imagine a man with his wife and children about him and with an air of resolution calling out to his enemy, All these God has given me and I will defend them." (In Hist. Soc. of Penna. Said to have been written by Nicholas Scull.)
This translation remained unchallenged until 1888, when Dr. Brinton, Professor of American Archæology and Linguistics in the University of Pennsylvania, pronounced the words Iroquois and not Delaware, and at his suggestion they were submitted to Mr. Horatio Hale, who translates them thus: "I am master wherever I am," and in a very able article gives his reasons for their being in this language rather than in the Delaware tongue. (American Antiquarian, January, 1886.)
As to the last resting-place of Tamanend, this is a subject upon which a great deal has been written. The tradition that he is buried by a spring in New Britain Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about three and one-half miles north of Doylestown, near the banks of the Neshaminy, on the farm owned by Enos Detwiler, is generally believed. We would add, in further confirmation of the tradition, that Tamanend ended his life by setting fire to his wigwam. (Magazine of American History, Vol. XXIX. p. 255; also Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania, by Sherman Day; Davis's History of Bucks County; Watson's Annals MSS., p. 498.)
In the following lines, which appear in a song published in the Pennsylvania Evening Post, April 30, 1776, reference is made to his end and also to his great age:
"As old ago came on, he grew blind, deaf and dumb,
Tho' his sport ‘twere hard to keep from it,
Quite tired of life, bid adieu to his wife,
And blaz'd like the tail of a comit, my brave boys."
The fact that an old Indian was buried at the place named in 1740 is not contradicted by any of the historians; the only question being as to whether it was Tamanend or some other Indian. The chief argument used by those who thought it was some other than our saint was that he must have been a very old man, and that they should have expected some mention of him by his contemporaries between 1697 and 1740.
We do not think that the absence of mention makes this point good, for any one familiar with the newspapers and few local writings of the period well know that items concerning events or persons of their locality are very few and far between.
The tradition of the "State in Schuylkill," referred to, is another corroborating the fact that he lived long; for if he gave the right to fish to them when they started their Society, he must have been alive in 1782, which is the date of their birth as an organization.
The high esteem in which the subject of our theme was held is best shown by the transactions of the Society named in his honor.
SONS OF SAINT TAMMANY.
Seneca war chief and statesman.
———During the American Revolution, Cornplanter was chosen at a gathering of warriors (along with the respected Seneca war chief Old Smoke) to lead the Iroquois warriors in support of the British. Cornplanter has at first vigorously opposed Iroquois participation in the war on either side and had admonished his warriors against fighting, starting, according to Governor Blacksnake, "war is war Death is the Death a fight is a hard business." Governor Blacksnake also stated that at the end of his speach Joseph Brant, the war chief of the Mohawk Valley Mohawks, who had earlier traveled to England to cement his ties to the Crown, accused Cornplanter of cowardice. Cornplanter eventually led the fighters against the Americans throughout the course of the war.
———Cornplanter was second in command of the Indian fighters at the Battle of Wyoming in June 1778. More than 300 Americans were killed in this action (and fewer than ten Indians and Rangers) while eight forts and a thousand dwellings were destroyed. On August 2, 1780, Cornplanter, Brant, Old Snake, and the Cayuga war chief Fish Carrier led about four hundred Indians and Tories on a scorched-earth campaign against the Canajoharie District in the Mohawk Valley. Approximately fifty to sixty prisoners were taken, while two forts and fifty-three houses were destroyed. Among the houses burned was that of John Abeel, who was captured and then recognized as Cornplanter's father. Cornplanter apologized intensely for burning his father's home and offered to take his father home to the Seneca country or, if he preferred, to send him back to his white family, Abeel chose the latter.
———In October 1780, Cornplanter was among the leaders in a series of attacks on forts and settlements in the Schoharie Valley in what is now eastern New York State. This action was in response to the Clinton-Sullivan campaign of the previous year that had resulted in the destruction of two hundred Iroquois houses and an estimated 150,000 bushels of grain in addition to some forty Iroquois dead and more than sixty captured. The counterattack prompted New York Governor George Clinton to comment that New York's western frontier was not at Schenctady.
———At the end of the Revolutionary War Cornplanter organized and led a delegation to Fort Stanwix, where in 1783 a treaty was negotiated between the United States and the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. While embraced by the United States, the treaty made such sweeping concessions of Iroquois land that, when presented to the government of the Confederacy, it was deemed unacceptable. The Six Nations Grand Council never ratified it. In a speech delivered to President Washington at Philadelphia, Cornplanter stated: "When our chiefs returned from the treaty at Fort Stanwix, and laid before our council what had been done there, our nation was surprised to hear how great a country you had compelled them to give up to you, without your paying to us any thing for it. . . . We asked each other what have we done to deserve such severe chastisement?" Cornplanter participated in a series of treaties in 1784, 1794, 1797, and 1802, all of which ceded large areas of Seneca territory to non-Indians. Because of these cessions he became extremely unpopular among his own people and at one point stated "[t]he Great God, and not man, has preserved the Cornplanter from the hands of his own nation."
———In 1790 Cornplanter and several other Seneca chiefs met with George Washington to protect the terms of the Fort Stanwix Treaty, stating "you demand from us a great country, as the price of that peace which you had offered us; as if our want of strength had destroyed our rights. . . . Where the terms dictated to us by your commissioners reasonable and Just?" The Senecas went on to say that there was no reason why further land cessions should be expected.
———Cornplanter subsequently became a faithful ally of the new United States and was probably influential in persuading George Washington to adopt treaty making as the preferred method of dealing with Indian tribes while urging fair and honest treatment of the Indians generally. Congress passed the 1790 Non-Intercourse Act with the intention of upholding President Washington's promises that the federal government would protect Indian lands against fraud and theft.
———On November 4, 1791, the United States suffered what was probably its worst military defeat at the hands of Indians; 620 soldiers under General Author St. Clair were killed in a complete rout by the Shawnees and their allies on the Ohio-Indiana border. Subsequent attempts to arrange peace negotiations with these Indians were not successful, and George Washington now turned to the Six Nations to act as an intermediaries. The following year Cornplanter, at considerable risk to his own life, led a Six Nations delegation to a meeting on the Glaize (now Auglaize) River in an effort to reach an accommodation with the victorious Shawnees on behalf of the United States. Cornplanter's delegation met with the Indian forces that had defeated General St. Clair and found them in a less than conciliatory mood. They treated Cornplanter and his delegation with contempt for what they saw as their subservience to the Americans and issued a demand that white settlers evacuate the lands they were occupying northwest of the Ohio River. Although he was not completely successful in this peace initiative, Cornplanter received a grant of one square mile of land from the State of Pennsylvania for his efforts for his assistance in dissuading the Iroquois Confederacy from joining the Shawnees in the fighting in Ohio.
———He was living on his "Cornplanter Grant" in June of 1799 when his half brother Handsome Lake, who was living in the same house, arose from a coma and announced he had experienced a vision. The two men continued to live there until 1803 when a dispute with Handsome Lake sent a latter to Coldspring on the Alegheny Reservation, where he embarked on his lifelong mission to revive the ancient ways and values while adapting to the new world of the reservation. Cornplanter continued to live on his Pennsylvania grant for the rest of his life.
———Cornplanter died on February 18, 1836, and was buried at the Cornplanter Grant. In 1984 the cemetery where he was buried was moved to higher ground to make way for the reservoir that would be created by construction of the nearby Kinzua Dam.