Farrell's Guide to Authenticity. Don't believe your own bullshit. Laugh at it...
The sense of the world must lie outside the world...What we cannot speak about we must remain silent about...What can be described can happen too, and what is excluded by the laws of causality cannot be described -- Wittgenstein
A good guide will take through the more important streets more often than he takes you down side streets; a bad guide will do the opposite. In philosophy I'm a rather bad guide. -- Wittgenstein
Damned authenticity! It roughly means, for me, the 1=1 congruence of thought, action, belief, speech, dreams and prayers. It's bloody near impossible, because nothing is really congruent. As a born, baptized, educated and apostate Roman Catholic, it is similar to things like being in a state of grace or "making a good act of contrition." If I confess the sin of anger -- a sin I'm really, really proficient at -- to make a good act of contrition requires that I be sorry for what I did, and that I intend unreservedly to never be angry again. Yeah, right...not happening, Brother Jesus, not happening.
Damned Wittgenstein, for that matter. His philosophy is so dense because he sought absolute congruence between thought, action, and belief. But one thing the universe is, and remains, is not congruent. Trying to understand it can make multiple very bright people flee to things like cultivating a rock garden, as my buddy, indicted coconspirator and practicing Philosopher as well as Philosophy Professor Crispin Sartwell has done. Or, run for Congress. Or, run to prayer.
Confession, authenticity, congruence, integrity...Damn them all, I say. And, I recommend than taking a deep breath and getting back to trying to figure it all out. It's not the job of the academic philosopher to do this; it's the job of the authentic human being.
"But one thing we can understand about Wittgenstein is that he longed to change himself; and he saw confession as a means to fulfilling this. “Nothing is so difficult,” Wittgenstein wrote in 1938, “as not deceiving oneself.”’ His vision of the authentic self is perhaps always beyond reach, like the exemplars of authenticity with which he was familiar through the writings of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Authenticity throughout the history of philosophy is often conceived of as an ideal to which we should aspire, but that doesn’t prevent it being a useful means for self-improvement. Confession can help remove obstacles standing in the way of our becoming our authentic selves. "If it can do that for Wittgenstein, it may do the same for us."
Or, maybe not.
Maybe you should just not think about it all. This one is for Crispin, Jeff, James, Agi and Adam...
Few comments on the material -- I did the sentence that refers to the US as a country of broad shoulders, and decided that the poem, or most of it, belonged in the article. As a nation, our mojo kinda sorta is on vacation; I think that Trump's election depended in large part on a lot of people showing off their pencil necked geek. Chicago was a great image of America, a country with flaws but broad shoulders. Trump's triumph requires that a part of us give up and just slump our shoulders and demand our American version of Dostoyevsky's Inquisitor. It's ok to be depressed, but damn it, you need to go out shoulders back, head high and be aggressively depressed. Or something.
Dylan number is from his 88 tour of Australia with a little known band from Gainesville as his backup....Tad Putty and the Heartburners? Something like that. Looks like he's playing a Dean acoustic guitar which strikes me as odd.
New Vets setup limits the amount of music I can post. As I was finishing up, I realized I wanted to add this, mainly for the first verse --
Same old tune/fiddle and guitars/ where do we take it from here?
Rhinestone boots /big shiney cars/ it's been the same way for Years
We need a change...
Somebody told me when I got to Nashville
Son you really got it made
Old Hank made it here and we're all sure that you will
But I don't think Hank done it this a-way
I don't think Hank done it this way?
If old Hank did it this way, it would sound like Chuck Prophet.
James C. Scott, whose work straddles many disciplines, including sociology, political philosophy, agrarian studies, economics, linguistics, anthropology, aesthetics, and historiography, is sometimes called for short an 'anarchist anthropologist.' On the face of it, that's a odd thing to be. One might think that the last things that should be combined are a scientific discipline and a political ideology. A demand of science is to respond to the data as they come in, developing a framework for understanding them from the data themselves, rather than imposing such a framework a priori.
Nor does anarchism suggest any definite approach or methodology, as does its historical rival on the left Marxism, for example. It is perhaps more of an anti-authoritarian stance than an empirical framework or theory. Indeed, Scott has stopped just short of referring to himself as an anarchist (a collection of his essays, published in 2014, is entitled Two Cheers for Anarchism) and is, for that matter, hesitant to call himself an anthropologist, as he has, he says, inadequate formal training.
It might be preferable, then, to think of Scott, who is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale, as a generalist who takes an anti-authoritarian approach to the human sciences. This approach, like that of Michel Foucault at his best, for example, is concerned above all to clear the ground of a set of authoritarian prejudices through careful empirical investigation. In that sense, the approach can hope to help uncover hidden truths and neglected materials in the disciplines it engages. In political theory and in historiography, this sort of genealogy serves in the hands of figures such as Pierre Clastres, David Graeber, and Scott much the same the function that scepticism serves in epistemology: by its own account, it starts by revealing unexamined and unjustified assumptions.
Scott has applied this procedure - deeply and delightfully, I must say - to all sorts of things in a distinguished scholarly career: scientific forestry, the architecture of Brasilia, his own immersive residence with Malay villagers, Stalinist forced collectivization, the novels of Balzac, and much else besides. He draws examples as deftly from literature and popular culture as from 'native informants.' He is a careful scholar who often hedges his bets a bit, but he is also quite an intellectual swashbuckler, and the reader is liable to find a series of detailed observations accumulating into surprising, and often convincing, overturnings of wisdom both common and scholarly. Nor should the whole edifice be considered a mere argument for a political position: Scott's forays consistently yield insights and challenges no matter what your political orientation.
One of Scott's basic theoretical structures derives in part from Clastres, but is developed in Scott's books with more care and coherence. It is stated most elaborately in The Art of Not Being Governed: An anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia (reviewed in the TLS 26 Feb 2010). In many regions, states or empires form in lowland river deltas (such as the Nile, the Euphrates, the Mekong, the Yellow), which among other things are suitable to the large-scale production of grain. These are pictured, by themselves and often by the people studying them now, as centers of civilization, surrounded by 'barbarian,' 'tribal,' or 'primitive,' or 'stone-age' groups of hunter-gatherers. The story of humanity, as told even by philosophers of history such as Hegel, is the story of these lowland civilizations, leaving the tribal groups behind to disappear slowly or suddenly as history proceeds. The groups on the 'peripheries' are pictured in much traditional anthropology as our living ancestors or origin, and for a century and more anthropologists traveled to the most isolated groups they could find, in order to elucidate the origins of the 'high' culture and complex polities from which the anthropologists themselves emerged.
With extremely rich empirical data, Scott paints a different picture. The lowland kingdoms and the highland peoples (or, in different cases, people living in other sorts of terrain that are difficult to control - swamps, rain forests, deserts) are in a mutually dependent relation in a thousand ways, including, typically, people moving back and forth between them. The lowland kingdoms raid or recruit highland peoples, in particular as laborers to produce grain. And they continually extrude people into their peripheries, for extremely comprehensible reasons. States typically rely on forced labor of various sorts; they often go to war and require conscripts; taxes, particularly in times or war or crop failure, can be onerous to the point of destitution; diseases rampage in the relatively densely-populated kingdoms and people flee.
In many cases, Scott argues, the evidence suggests that tribal and primitive cultures consisted in part or indistinguishably of escapees from the state. In any case, these groups were typically perfectly aware of the state alternative, and consciously took measures to prevent similar structures of coercive authority from emerging among themselves. Clastres and Scott both describe some of these mechanisms, partly on the basis of their own fieldwork.
If this picture is even roughly or partly true, mainline anthropology has been profoundly distorted by what we might call a statist presumption, by the equation, for example, of civilization with large-scale political authority. And then perhaps we ought to think about who did the research, and for whom. The historical narrative, for many reasons, has been dominated by large states and empires that engaged, for example, in elaborate record-keeping and monumental architecture; what persists in time is inordinately the self-interpretation and self-presentation of political power. Then it seems that more than half of history, the history of the 'shatter zones' around major kingdoms, remains to be explored, though information is difficult to come by.
In Against the Grain, Scott assays a systematic application of this conceptual framework to a set of fundamental interlocked questions about what used to be called 'the dawn of civilization': how human beings, in particular in Mesopotamia around in the seventh to second millennia BCE, entered into sedentism, large-scale agriculture, domestication of animals, and the political state. The book, by way of comparison and confirmation, also considers other early civilizations such as those arising in China and Egypt. It manages both to coordinate much recent research on these matters and to present a fundamentally new picture in a variety of respects.
In numerous cases, Scott breaks down traditional distinctions, especially in cases where they amount to simple dualisms. He points out that "hunter-gatherers" engaged in many techniques to increase the yield of food from their environments, including "burning of undesirable flora, weeding wild stands of favored plants and trees to eliminate competitors, pruning, thinning, selective harvesting." Agriculture, asserts Scott, forms a continuum with other food-gathering practices, and, employing the research of Melinda Zeder and others, he argues that agriculture preceded state formation by millennia.
The conventional 'subspecies' of subsistence modes - hunting, foraging, pastoralism, and farming - make . . . little historical sense. The same people have practiced all four, sometimes in a single lifetime; the activities can and have been combined for thousands of years, and each of them bleeds imperceptibly into the next along a vast continuum of human re-arrangements of the natural world.
On the other hand, the earliest Mesopotamian states, which he identifies with such cities as Uruk and Ur II, which came into existence around 3000 BCE, were indeed centered around large-scale grain monoculture and the ferocious demands for labor which it entailed.
As with agriculture, Scott agrees that war of various sorts long preceded the state, but he emphasizes that states characteristically engaged in war and were invariably organized both for defense against attack and with the ability to project force, at least into the surrounding frontiers - in search, above all, of laborers - but also often against neighboring states. As large-scale grain monoculture, so systematically prosecuted and enduring wars, as well as developments in barrier and weapons technologies, were characteristic state innovations.
He presents nomadic and settled communities as, likewise, more a continuum than a duality, with every variation on offer, for example seasonal but enduring settlements. What is and what is not a state, likewise, is for Scott a complex matter involving multiple criteria, and he suggests that many intermediate cases between state and non-state societies have emerged in the archeological fragments.
In short, Scott subtilizes or multiplies many fundamental concepts and distinctions, and in a number of respects his treatment bolsters his credibility. It would be all too easy for someone who has (hesitantly) associated his own position with anarchism to condemn the state as simply a war machine or to ignore the reasons that life within it could also be attractive. Scott's position ends up in its own way underpinning anti-authoritarian conclusions, but he doesn't hammer them home as dogmas, and he takes the multiplicity and ambiguity of the evidence with the utmost seriousness. (He describes slavery and systematic forced labor, however, as not only central to the early state, but as impossible without it.)
Nevertheless, there is an element of what has come to be called 'anarcho-primitivism' in Scott's work. This is a position for activists or a guideline for communal living rather than primarily a research program or a well-worked-out political theory but, in the hands of figures such as John Zerzan, it often asserts that humanity went terribly wrong - politically, environmentally, and morally - when it settled down to large-scale agriculture and the political state. (As we speak, anarchists in Oregon may be engaged in a "paleolithic" foraging lifestyle.)
Scott's position is both more subtle and more substantial, but one of his primary themes is the strength of various sorts of non-state and non-sedentary groups. Such groups are able to straddle several ecological zones, for example, and still find nutrition in times of flood or drought, or even in eras of climate change, which Scott argues (following many recent anthropologists and historians) had a decisive effect on many of the developments he describes.
The state and early civilizations [are] often seen as attractive magnets, drawing people in by virtue of their luxury, culture, and opportunities. In fact, the early states had to capture and hold much of their population by forms of bondage and were plagued by the epidemics of crowding. The early states were fragile and liable to collapse, but the ensuing 'dark ages' may often have marked an actual improvement in human welfare. Finally, there is a strong case to be made that life outside the state - life as a 'barbarian' - may often have been materially easier, freer, and healthier than life within it.
Scott emphasizes, throughout, that the equation of 'civilization' with large-scale agricultural states has terribly distorted the story we have told to ourselves of our own origins. Archeology, to some extent of necessity, concentrates on groups that built on a large scale, and groups of fishers/cultivators in wetlands might leave almost no recoverable trace. But it does not follow that such a group might not have had great resilience, or a rich and complex culture, or indeed political arrangements that the group itself as well as newcomers from oppressive or collapsing states regarded as preferable to the political state in myriad respects.
It is fairly rare that Scott directly draws philosophical conclusions from his empirical discussion, but he does so here, in understated fashion, in the introduction. "If the formation of the earliest states were shown to be largely a coercive enterprise, the vision of the state, one dear to the heart of such social - contract theorists as Hobbes and Locke, as a magnet of civil peace, social order, and freedom from fear, drawing people in by its charisma, would have to be reexamined."
In the richness of its empirical underpinnings, its theoretical sophistication, the lucidity of its writing, and its originality, James C. Scott's oeuvre is among the most important in contemporary political theory. Against the Grain is a significant addition to it, as Scott issues the challenge of an anti-authoritarian approach to our political origins.
In a recent column, Masha Gessen turned her reflections Andrei Sakharov. I felt guilty, because Sakharov was probably the most notable prisoner of conference in the Soviet Union; too important to kill but to knowledgable to ever stand a chance of exile. He's an interesting contrast to Solzhenitsyn who was able to escape communism and go off to Vermont to complain that it wasn't Russia. No, it wasn't; but then, neither was Russia.
Gessen raised a point that Sakharov made in his first anti-government writing, the one that got him sent to internal exile and kept him accompanying his wife and giving his own Nobel Peace Prize. He expressed the opinion that autocrats were criminals, actually guilty of crimes; were very narrow-minded; and, had no ability to anticipate what was going to happen.
Well, it is getting dark, but it's still light enough to see, and this is a great description of our only serving president.
At the same time, I was looking for some way to put Trump in a class. Nixon was a lot of bad things, but he wasn't ignorant, nor stupid, nor greedy, nor a coward. That was when I discovered a piece about Isaiah Berlin and his Hedgehog and Fog imager. Berlin was interested in language and in classification and differentiation, and meant this one as a thought experiment. Turned out to be more than that but as he said, "Every classification tells you something."
This is what I've spent entirely too long working on. I haven't been feeling at all well, and I'll use that for the excuse.
We really do not appreciate the elegance of variances of "fuck" and "motherfucker" as universal pronouns, nouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions and exclamations. As brevity, simplicity, and compatibility go, these words can rule conversations.
It might be worth it to develop grammatical rules for use of fuck and motherfucker. Worth considering as a doctoral dissertation topic for someone do theory of knowledge and semantics, perhaps.
Political and economic realism - the sort associated with figures such as Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, and even Karl Marx - was once common wisdom. Realism of this sort holds that, whatever their grand rhetoric or lofty ideals, political leaders and nations operate fundamentally in pursuit of their own self-interest, to increase their wealth and power. Few analysts, looking at the American role in the world today, seem to take that approach. They think about politics not as occurring in a world of concrete economic or military realities, but in a realm of pure symbology, a world of signs, emblems, indications.
All Korea experts and pundits seem to agree, for example, that in meeting with Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump gave Kim what he really wanted: a chance to appear on equal terms with the President of the United States, a recognition of his legitimacy as a world leader. They treated the sheer fact of the meeting, or the way that American and North Korean flags were displayed behind the leaders with equal emphasis, as the sorts of things Kim was trying to achieve, as what he most deeply wanted.
If so, Kim was behaving irrationally by the standards of political realism. Self-esteem enhancement is not in itself a practical outcome in the real world. Feeling oneself to be the equal of the President of the United States would no doubt make some people feel good. It won’t in itself help your economy or keep you from getting invaded or overthrown. That kind of symbolic transaction isn’t, in itself, much of anything. It’s quite hard to tell, for example, whether his detente with Trump helps or hurts Kim domestically, with the North Korean military or with popular opinion, such as it is.
We seem to be operating with an anti-realist or irrealist theory of political motivation: world politics is conceived as a struggle over imagery, in particular as a psycho-drama in which people and nations are working out their low self-esteem. At the moment, competition over unnatural resources seem more explanatory than that over natural ones, and we seem to think of the self-image of political leaders or of nations as the immaterial material over which the world struggles. This resource, a kind of psychic energy, seems to be scarce, and you don’t extract it from the ground, but from other leaders. Certainly, self-esteem seems to be the basic commodity in which Trump traffics: he often seems to be concerned primarily to enhance his own at the expense of other people’s, or to enhance other people’s in order to get what he wants from them.
That, however, doesn’t mean that the stuff is real, or that devoting your foreign policy or your life to it is sensible. If Kim really thought that a sheer handshake with POTUS was in itself some sort of tangible advantage, he needs a little lesson in capitalism: that sort of legitimacy and $2.50 will get you a chai latte. Feeling really good about yourself as a nation doesn’t in itself feed anyone or even line the pockets of the leadership.
People were taken aback, for example, that Trump praised Kim repeatedly as strong, smart, trustworthy, talented and so on. One thing Trump has noticed, I think, is that dealing out praise (and for that matter ridicule) doesn’t directly cost you anything. Profligate spending on compliments and insults - which appear at the moment to be the currency of international affairs - doesn’t increase the deficit. That Trump lurches from criticism and threats to fulsome praise suggests something about the nature of symbolic resources: they don’t actually cost anything, so you might as well deal them out freely. If they do affect people’s behavior, or if you can achieve something concrete by their use, why shouldn’t you?
Of course, the only reason they do affect people’s behavior is because those people have decided to move with you into your symbolic realm and to worry with you about the distribution of imaginary resources. So, for example, Trump’s insults directed at Justin Trudeau are greeted as an international crisis rather than, for example, a spat between egos. And if Trudeau lets Peter Navarro’s “special place in hell” affect Canadian trade policy, he is surely behaving irrationally. It is a flimsy world order, and one that perhaps exists only in the imagination, that can be interrupted by a few scorching Tweets directed at the G7.
One lesson that Trump’s own self-esteem drama and very casual way of doling out praise and insults should teach us is that we should pull back and regard what he says as, in general, neither particularly harmful nor particularly helpful in the real world, and also as not very closely connected to it. As we try to figure out what is actually going on, we could all use a return to realism. To reach any understanding, we’re going to have to get a bit less confused as between resources like self-esteem and resources like bauxite.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. His most recent book is Entanglements: A System of Philosophy).
There’s recently been a revival of an argument that goes back to the 18th century: that the form of government prescribed by the Constitution gives more representation to rural than to urban people, and to people from relatively sparsely-populated states than to people from populous ones. The clinching demonstrations of this are the composition of the Senate and, less extremely, the electoral college. Now, everyone takes the position on this matter that would help their own side get elected. Nevertheless, the question does show something fundamental about the nature of political representation.
The political reasons for the phenomenon are familiar from your history textbook: the US originates as an alliance among independent states. The less populous states were concerned that their voices and interests would be drowned out or swamped by those of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York; they had to be cajoled into the nation. Similar assurances about representation were required, for example, by smaller nations in constituting the European Union, and the United Nations pays lip service at least to a principle of equal sovereignty among nation-states, not representation in proportion to population. It had to start there if it expected smaller nations to join.
Most of us do not, any longer, think of the US as an alliance of independent nations; we consider the United States a single political unit in some sense. Under that presumption, and as an abstract matter in democratic political theory (which is liable to start with a principle of equal representation or one person/one vote), it is hard to argue that the 600,000 or so people of Wyoming should have the same representation in the Senate as Florida’s 20,000,000.
But whatever the theoretical and practical drawbacks of the system as it stands, it also shows some of the real complexities and some of the possibilities for beauty or profundity that lurk within the practices of political representation. The neutral, abstract scheme of one person/one vote yields a kind of minimalist or hyper-simplified picture, but the concrete practices of political representation on the ground are variegated, swirling, showing many relations of human beings to one another and to other bits or dimensions of the world.
In almost any real democratic system, the space or geography of the nation is represented to some extent as well as its human population. This is striking, in that it suggests that, in representative politics, the physical configuration of a country as well as its people is the subject represented: what the picture is a picture of, as a portrait represents the person who sat for it or a still-life painting a bowl of fruit. A democracy in some sense represents the place in which it is located as well as people it encompasses as citizens. In addition to being a portrait of the people, that is, a representative system is a sort of landscape painting or topographical map of the terrain it operates within.
The spaces that Florida and Wyoming occupy in the Senate chamber correlates better to their relative physical size than to their relative population, and in general the Senate comes closer than the House, for example, to resembling the sweep of the nation across the vast central plains and mountain west that has been central to the national narrative. Obviously, this doesn’t work so well for Delaware, but the point is that the different principles on which different branches and levels of government are selected ends up yielding a remarkably complex depiction of a nation.
Any representative democracy and indeed almost any political system is obliged to represent geographies as well as populations. Geography, after all, accounts to some extent for the distribution of populations in the first place. But any political situation or system of any size coordinates smaller units: provinces, counties, townships, and so on, and reflects to some extent the physical environment it occupies.
Indeed, when we think about America, we do not think of it only, or even primarily, as a group of people, but as a physical terrain (purple mountains and fruited planes, sea to shining sea, and so on). We might think of it, as well, in terms of located sub-cultures: Latino culture in southern Texas, peoples meeting in New Orleans at the mouth of Mississippi, Appalachia, and a hundred others. The principle of one person/one vote irrigates all the deserts, flattens all the mountains, and bridges all the rivers, but even the attempt to apply the principle with perfect neutrality ends up connecting to the highly differentiated landscape and acknowledging the connections of the people to it.
Every political system represents the space it occupies as well as the people occupying that space, and represents them as inseparable. We may want to ameliorate specific political inequalities that this generates, but I think it is more something we should try to become conscious of and even celebrate than something we should seek to expunge.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. His most recent book is Entanglements: A System of Philosophy (SUNY 2017).
Latest article at Vets. Not often you get to set George Will up as inspiration. I am waiting for the explosion when he realizes that Kim Jon Un punked him and when he sees the stuff about the Baby Trump the Blimp floating around London during his visit. Plus, NATO will probably just ignore him and Putin will give him orders. Sucks to be Donald Trump; sucks worse, however, to be a citizen of the country he's sort of in charge of...
Look, Russia invaded our country by interfering the election and has been engaged in information and cyber warfare against us and our allies for at least a decade. Trump is doing everything possible to cover that up and let them have an expressway into the next election. It's treason in effect; it certainly violates the espionage act and a variety of other things. We need to start saying that out loud.
Look, the things that made America a world wide power weren't an isolated economy and military power. It was when we stepped up in 1941 through 2012 and tried to lead the world through a leadership based on principles of liberal democracy as opposed to Realpolitik, selfish national interest, and greed. When we violated those principles, we ran into problems…and on a world stage, problems tend to play out over generations if not centuries. So, if you are crafting an overarching policy for governing a great world power, "don’t do stupid things!" would be a great first principle. This administration instead has an overarching policy of "Abe Lincoln was a Republican...I bet you didn't know that!"
So if you are wearing a MAGA hat, I suspect you’ve already stopped reading my stuff, where ever I link it or post it, so read some history of the US involvement in Iran, Cuba and Latin America, and Mexico instead. Read Mark Bowen’s “Blackhawk Down” and “Tet.” Read Ralph Peters’ series of US civil war novels. Get some perspective that doesn’t include ditto signs. Read some collections of George Wills’ writings, some Ralph Meacham, Sandberg’s Lincoln. Read the history of the US constitution. Get a bit more knowledge and maybe even some perspective. If nothing else, try to be an informed, loyal and situationally aware American.
Kissing the collective asses of Putin, Xe, and Kim probably is certainly not the way to make or keep America great.
I've been 40 and I've been 60, and 40 was a helluva lot different than 60. My soldiers gave me a coffee cup emblazoned "Between 30 and death..." My soldiers also did a lot of pushups. Especially on my birthday...
Crispin is undoubtedly recovering from grading finals -- which means reflecting, drinking copiously and hunkering in a darkened corner, whimpering while evaluating his career choices. However, those of us who read his stuff, and those of us who have gotten to know him as a friend need to take a moment, and raise a glass of our poison of choice to Crispin Sartwell.
He may not have yet found his honest man, but I suspect that's because he seldom looks in a mirror except to shave and brush his teeth and act as if he's combing his hair. No Surrender! Slainte! Tiocfaidh Ar La! Up the Republic...and happy birthday, brother.
Thirty years ago, I was a First Sergeant in the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. One of my young NCOs referred to a problem soldier as “The Hyena.” “What do you mean by that, Schoonmaker?” “First Sergeant, he’s got no shoulders, a long neck, and makes strange noises under pressure. Just like a hyena.” Well, I asked and…he was right.
So, Scott Pruitt is THE Okie Hyena. Or possibly the Oklahoma weasel. You decide...
On his first Thanksgiving in office, Barrack Obama explain as his daughters looked on with the expressions that only daughters can use when dad is being weird to muse about being president, finishing with, "Some days you change the world; other days, you pardon a turkey." And so it goes.
Got an assertion for you: philosophy since the 17th century, even as it screams 'science science science' is completely incompatible with science and is fighting a rearguard action for spirit. I mean rationalists, empiricists, idealists, phenomenologists, positivists, etc. Enlightenment philosophy and Enlightenment science are not complements, but opponents. This is obvious above all in the 'idea idea,' that we're experiencing our own mental contents, not a world. It's a disastrous move, and a move directly away from the world studied by science.
The most hilarious version is positivism: here's our contribution to science: you have to reduce every experience and all knowledge to 'auto-psychological objects' (Carnap). That has to do with absolutely anything but science. First step in the double-blind study: reduce it to the immediate contents of your own consciousness. Maybe you think the dream argument helped science. Or Hegel screaming obsessively insisting on the scientific status of Absolute Idealism. Or Hume's ideas and external-world scepticism. Maybe Kant's characterization of space and time as forms of perception helped someone's geology or something? (No but it led physics into screeching nonsense. Check 'Science' tab at right for much more). Or Spinoza's monism. Or Malebrache's occasionalism. Or Wittgenstein's language games. Philosophy has been at war with science the whole time.
Science presupposes a world outside of human consciousness which we can know. In fact, we all presuppose that. "Enlightenment" philosophy is mostly just an attempt to undermine this claim, or phutz with it for generations, trying to answer questions of its own manufacture.
I'm still trying to destroy the left-right spectrum, and I'm going to do a three-part series: Why I Am Not a Leftist, Why I'm Not on the Right, and Why I'm an Anarchist, and what that means in this case. I really do think that a wretched mistake lurks at the heart of the left, starting with Marx, an unconscionable and utterly implausible detachment of means and ends.
I am always flummoxed by the way people think about representations and reality; they appear to think that representations create reality, or that a novel or a movie can transform you and the whole world. Nowhere is the absurdity more apparent than on Black Panther, and I've never seen it more clearly expressed or displayed more clearly as implausible than by Anna Deavere Smith in the May 24 New York Review of Books. She portrays BP as being to this era what Malcolm, Martin and the Black Panther party were to the 60s.
'There is a conversation to be had,' she writes, in a core sample of her prose style. 'Filmmaking is collaborative,' she observes. 'The producers are essential.' Perhaps she's trying to lull us toward her vast conclusions/rhetorical questions by saying as little as possible for awhile. 'Killmonger [the super-villain] is competitive,' she claims. Like Donald Trump, 'he behaves with no decorum.' Yeah? Say that to his face, why don't you. Consider by contrast the Dread Dormamu, for instance, who always made etiquette his calling card. 'Women have commented on how thrilling it is to see a powerful black woman,' especially one who is 'fresh-faced in every way.' Cosmetics are going to be key, I feel, to Smith's new transformative Black-Panther oriented social movement.
The character Shuri "represents a new type of young black woman - a science genius who spends her days in the lab making inventions and powering what she invents with vibranium." That *is* a new type. She suggests - I don't think she's trying to be funny - that 'Wakanda Forever!' is to this moment what 'Power to the People' was to the '60s and 'No Justice, No Peace' to the '90s. I want you to picture people chanting that at the demo after the next police shooting.
'A sense of self comes from the mirror in which you see yourself - and it also comes from gathering information on how others see you. . . . What is it about the human condition that causes us to need to see ourselves in art forms? Is it that art forms are meant to be mirrors?' Or in other words, movies make the self. The 'mirror' of Black Panther is undistorted at last. That required a lot of CGI. If you can hold onto your sense of yourself as an invulnerable costumed superhero, I'd be a bit worried what happens after that, but go for it I guess.
She doesn't know whether Black Panther will change the way judges sentence black men; it's quite possible. She doesn't know whether it will transform schools and the children within them, but it just might. She thinks Shuri will lead to black female CEOs in Silicon Valley. If people didn't say things like that regularly, you'd just go 'have you lost your frigging mind?' She appears to believe that a billion-dollar blockbuster can have results comparable to the entire Civil Rights movement. Plus it can sell more cars than Malcolm and Martin put together.
Well, it was the same with Wonder Woman, the Lucretia Mott of our time, the final triumphant realization of feminism, who so transformed us all and demonstrably led to higher SAT scores for girls. And plus WW is super-hot in every way. I know a bunch of sexual harassers who just couldn't continue after they saw that movie. "There is a conversation to be had," one of them told me as we gazed at the screening with almost superhuman intensity.
it's true! i'm in the wall street journal today. i think people have failed to see something pretty glaring about analyzing politics, or prosecuting it, primarily through demographic categories. namely, that the thing is incoherent. incoherent, i tell you.
The title is from some dialogue in Inherit the Wind, the great 50s play and 60s film ostensibly about the Scopes trial but really about the freedom of thought and expression. Lots of lessons for us, and if you haven't seen the film or read the play, you are missing a treat. I believe that line was lifted verbatim from the trial record. Clarence Darrow, denied by the court of using expert witnesses to justify his client's teaching of evolution, put Williams Jennings Bryan on the stand as an expert on the bible and in a marvelous display of his skills, puts the Bryan and establishment position to shame. In this small bit of dialogue, the Bryan character says that "I do not think about the things I don't think about?" Crowd erupts! Yea, Christianity. Toss the lousy science teacher to the lions!
In the film, Spencer Tracy played the Darrow character, and he looks up and asks " Do you think about the things you do think about?"
This is intended as a way of kicking off a bit of a thought experiment. Both Crispin and I have thought for years that the real advantage to a blog is the possibility of learning. It can be a dynamic conversation, as people reflect on issues and experiences. Lots of it has degenerated since the glory years of the medium. Here's an attempt to start one again, here where I was forced by a prickly weirdo philosopher to start thinking critically and reflecting critically more than a decade ago.
There is nothing unique about what's happening in this mess. Far from it; my boots share some of the same shit Kelly now has on his and if you hang around long enough in leadership roles or advisory roles you'll have it too. The possibility in this case is that this case blows up that sort of People-Processes-Protocols-Procedures-Organizational Dynamics-Learning-Communications-Ethics nexus so we can see it. Not unlike what Plato did in The Republic, taking the question of individual ethics and blowing it up into political science. Looking for the ideal state and finding something like a steroidal Sparta says more about Plato than it does about the thought experiment.
So, please take a second to read my piece from Veterans News Today and just think about the Kelly thing. What have we learned from this about how things that seem so simple go so wrong? What is the key underlying failure here and how does it relate to similar situations where this sort of mud has splattered on your boots --Crispy's famous last stand for the academic freedom to quote Miranda Lambert comes to mind -- and what should we learn from thinking about this? Put your thoughts into the comments here since Vets has gotten weird about comments pages. If you wish, drop me a note at [email protected] because I'd like to know what people think, not just about my failed stabs at brilliance but about thinking about thinking about what you're thinking about.
gifted: my country top ten for 2017. i've been doing this with occasinal gaps since 1982: a few years for the military mag off duty, for one. one thing about country music, i say, is that you can't be a charlatan; you've pretty much got to be able to sit there with a guitar and kill. some demonstrations of that by people in the top ten:
janson comes in at #2.
about as good a pure singer as you will ever hear:
there are a bunch of good songs on her album, which pops in at 5. i like "sway" and "potential," e.g.
a thousand horses deserves more play than they're getting (#7):
and i'm recommending everyone to check out song suffragettes for stuff like this (#10):
some of my music writing this year for #splicetoday:
Race was invented by the sort of people who came to regard themselves, after that invention, as white.
The content of this invention was an application of the mind-body or soul-body dualism of various sorts that has been fundamental to Western intellectual and spiritual traditions for millennia, expressed in one form or another, for example, by Pythagoras, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes.
Hence, the content of race is prefigured in and crystallized by the history of Western philosophy, or at any rate by Western philosophy of a certain type: the sort that associates mind, order, and virtue with itself and the culture from which it arises, as in Hobbes or Hegel, and anarchy and animality with peoples who were to be colonized or enslaved.
Race, in short, is mind/body dualism externalized or expanded from the scale of the individual to the scale of humanity as a whole. We are minds; they are bodies. We are pure white souls; they are polluted, stained, or tainted. We are human; they are animal. We are rational; they are emotional. We are free wills, natural masters, because of our status as rational minds; they are slaves of their own passions and hence need our oversight. We are culture; they are barbarism.
All these - rational/emotional, man/animal, civilized/savage, body/mind - are the same distinction in various applications or at different scales, and are reflected in exclusions and hierarchies: of the first and third world, male and female, black and white.
For this reason, white construction of blackness relentlessly emphasizes embodiment and animality, violence and sexuality: things that the people who regarded themselves as white wanted to repress or conceal in themselves. You can see this in every stereotype of black people, in the toxic mix of sexualization and violence in the murder of Emmett Till, in representations of black criminality and promiscuity, substance abuse and violence.
These constructions are, at their heart, purely imaginary, or merely false; they are intended fundamentally (a) to enhance the self-image of the people who account themselves as white, and (b) to help create and hold in place a racial hierarchy that benefits white people economically.
But this invention is embodied in the most concrete physical realities: ships and chains, plantations and prisons, the segregation of bodies. Race depends on techniques by which stereotypes are enforced and hence simulated: laws against literacy or barriers to a decent education, impoverishment, and profiling in law enforcement, for example.
But perhaps race is more than false, as many black commentators such as Frederick Douglass have emphasized. The truth is closer to the reverse of the content of the invention. We portray ourselves as bringing you God or civilization, and show ourselves to be unspeakably savage. We project onto you our own barbarity: we lynch you for looking at a white woman wrong, and we have inflicted generations of systematic rape on your people. We accuse you of violence, then whip you or incarcerate you en masse. We accuse you of laziness and live off your labor.
We are, in other words, what we accuse you of being, and necessarily we do not know that about ourselves. But you know it about us. The oppression we inflict arises from systematic, semi-intentional ignorance about who we are and what we are in fact doing. Or, white identity is a fabric of self-delusions, and blackness is a standpoint that yields knowledge of the racial situation.
The imaginary and concrete exclusions create cultures of resistance whose content far exceeds the original raw dualism.