it would surprise and disappoint me if there's not a lot of good video of israel's attack on the flotilla; certainly if i was planning the flotilla, i would have put someone good in charge of documenting this thing for the world.
look i'll say it again. you fought for our freedom if the action in which you were involved actually had the purpose and effect of freeing us or preserving what freedom we had. and if not, not. whatever they were fighting for in vietnam, it was not our freedom. whatever they are fighting for in iraq, it is not our freedom. for example, if the nation is manipulated by lies to go to war and start killing people, then what you're fighting/killing/dying for is lies and oppression. i guess maybe the idea is that all these people meant well, or were convinced by the government that they were fighting for our freeedom. but propaganda, self-delusion, and capitulation are not freedom. that everyone who ever served in the armed forces is an american hero is (a) ridiculous, and (b) precisely more manipulation to keep us killing. the fact that we all chorus these words in unison just shows how entirely manipulable we are, how desperately we want to do what they want us to do, no matter what it is.
every memorial day, you get the vague impression that the wars in vietnam and iraq, e.g., were a matter of repelling an invasion by the vietnamese or the iraqis, that america's heroes were defending the american heartland, that america would not exist at all if we hadn't killed those hundreds of thousands of people. freedom isn't free and the cost is high and america's veterans have preserved america for us so we could pass our freedom down to our children. think about that for like half a second with regard to these particular conflicts. it is an insanely ridiculous picture, more hyperbolically propagandistic even than the rhetoric of the vicious people who dragged your ass into these conflicts, or invented them out of whole cloth for political purposes etc. if you think the existence of our freedom required us to agent orange or napalm the fields around isolated villages in the vietnamese jungle etc, not to speak of the villages/villagers themselves, you are out of your bloodthirsty mind. if you think that the action was heroic, then i want you to explain to me why.
the answer can't be that the people who actually fought were convinced it was heroic. being an idiot or a sucker, or even responding comprehensibly to a situation about which you have been completely deceived, is not heroism. you are not a hero in virtue of the fact that your belief system has been manipulated by dick cheney, even if the situation is understandable, even if the truth is entirely unavailable. the most we could say for you at that point is that you, too, are a victim.
i'll thank you for your service if what you did was actually service, or if you should have my gratitude because you helped me in some way. if you just shot people on the other side of the world because someone told you to, then thanking you for your service is literally impossible. there was no service, and nothing for which to thank you.
service to your country (=your government) is admirable if your government is admirable. if not, not. memorial day rhetoric would make heroes out concentration camp guards, killing fields killers: anyone who "serves their country," i.e. destroys their own conscience and does what they tell you to do. connecting that to 'freedom' is beyond ironic; it's obscene.
jewish fuckheads are still fuckheads. on another note, i would think that the approach of stopping an aid flotilla at the cost of various human lives is a profound act of self-revelation, and that this revelation may do more for the cause the flotilla champions than any boatload of medical supplies.
it's pretty amazing that all the parties around north korea - china, japan, the u.s., even south korea - are concerned above all the "stabilize" the regime. they explicitly are trying to keep the north korean state from disintegrating. i heard an expert saying that as the south koreans deal with the ship sinking, they're concerned above all not to let it destabilize the gov of kim jong il. now of course you've got a military - albeit pretty broke and incompetent - with nukes and huge standing army. but for everybody's sake - in particular the sake of the north korean people - surely we all want the regime to disintegrate?? even at some cost. the state system pulls together as a world: the u.n. basically makes revolution illegal. so you sit there in the department of state thinking: how we can preserve this murdering idiot, keep people starving and in ignorance, and so on? hell it beats instability.
actually i don't think i've ever seen anyone treated more with more casual, constant viciousness than sarah palin. it's disgusting. it's mindless. and at this point it's beyond repetitive and boring. i pray one day she will be the adventurer ellis weiner's president, and will be writing his health insurance. and i want him to remember that he and similar adventurers are the reason the government is writing our health insurance in the first place; it is he who will have given sarah power over his very body. she will have become, by his own enthusiastic decision, his actual mind. ah the adventure of health insurance!
if you ask me, moving in next door to someone so you can write a critical book about her is disgusting. you might think for a moment about how that would feel, or how it would affect your life and your family's, moment by moment. of course, the victim is sarah palin, and i realize that taking the route of connecting to her human experience would be incompatible with your picture of her as completely evil complete idjit, as a member of a species different from your own or an inanimate object.
heidegger and wittgenstein, but it now appears even derrida and
foucault and deleuze, were artifacts of the modern era in the sense
that they were geniuses comparable to beethoven or van gogh or
pollock. the sciences had them too: the figures of infinite creativity
and in the case of sci and phil, super-intelligence, intelligence as a
super-power. that's why you can't understand what they say; they're on
a different evolutionary plain.well one drawback of this amazing persona is that it encourages a kind of preening, a self-cultivation qua genius
. giorgio agamben is someone i've read lately who is still
inhabiting/impersonating this figure. well i like latour's version of
the next step: christ, cut the crap and let's talk about something: you
come off thinking what a disarming fellow rather than ohmygod i just
almost caught a glimpse of the essence of being. but you do catch a glimpse of the essence of being.
what a rich, diverse world we live in! it might appear odd or unaccountable that revolutionary movements in nepal and india describe themselves as "maoists." maoism? good thinking! let's try it again; there weren't enough executions the first time round. all good people are nostalgic for the killing fields. but why not, i don't know, tsarism? or emperor bokassaism?: cannibalism as a technique of good governance etc.
well i gotta say that the one word exam was an extraordinarily beautiful idea, one that has wrapped within it a whole conception of education. one reason i assume it's over: it's precisely the opposite of what kids seem to want or demand in their personae as products of our schools, which is, quite simply, to be told extremely clearly and elaborately what is expected. students used to come to my office making arguments etc; now there is only one question: "what are you looking for on this paper?" they want extremely detailed and elaborate "prompts" and they want a mechanical procedure for getting an 'a.' they are nice. they are sincere. but they are morbidly authoritarian personalities, destined merely to capitulate. this makes the leftist view that we are disintegrating into a bunch of individualists just seem bizarre. i would say that the culture of standardized testing, and the mechanical, external, entirely institutional relation to knowledge maintained by experts of obama's era and ilk, could be predicted to have exactly this result, to produce personalities that want above all to be subordinated.
that is what our education system is for, now. and let me say this again: obama has no better or different ideas on education than bush: for both, it's just a bunch of hoops, just a bunch of circles to be filled in: it is anti-human; it treats children as inanimate objects. also i would say that the personality of our college-age people constitutes a danger of a future of political authoritarianism, which will take a kind of mellow form: it will be al gore world regulation, but endowed with as much power over us as possible, which is really the key motivation. all we want to know is what obama or whomever may exercise power over us, wants.
But first they have to take the exam. It consists of 12 hours of essays over two days. Half are on the applicants’ academic specialties, the other half on general subjects, with questions like: “Do the innocent have nothing to fear?” “Isn’t global warming
preferable to global cooling?” “How many people should there be?” and
the surprisingly relevant, because this is Britain: “Does the moral
character of an orgy change when the participants wear Nazi uniforms?”
i don't know what my students would do if they had to sit down to a test and were unexpectedly confronted by questions like that. nothing much, i believe. and the faculty wouldn't be much more comfortable administering them: how do you norm an exam consisting of the word 'style'?
let me admit, however, that it may be that these instruments attract me simply because i feel that i would (have) do (done) well on them. the one-word or extremely open-ended essay plays to my strengths: improvisation, riffing, drawing wide and compelling and yet completely arbitrary connections etc. put me in an intellectual situation with structure, answers, procedures, and i'm liable to be worse than mediocre. put me in a field and encourage me to play, and i do good.
p.s. the moral character of any orgy is improved by a nazi party theme! i think there is no nobler human aspiration than the eroticization of genocide.
watcha readin, crispy? well the great god harvey molotch kind of directed me to bruno latour, who's one of those names you see everywhere. but i'd never really read. kind of like i'd never read much bourdieu until recently, probably because they are officially sociologists rather than philosophers, i guess. the first wave of latour was fundamental "sociology of science," the socialsciency sortofitonic examination/explanation of the activities/institutional contexts/effects of scientists. now of course such activities threaten the self-image of some scientists and advocates of science's exclusive epistemological prestige: they want to believe, or even basically assert, that science essentially has no social context: that it's a raw encounter with the truth or nature.
so when sociologists of science - even so subtle and excellent a one as latour - started to do their thing, they were immediately accused of 'relativism,' or as they themselves might have said, 'social constructivism.' really they were derided as idealists: they supposedly melted the material world into social practices. indeed, many did precisely that, and it is just as ridiculous a position as it appears offhand to be.
in the two books i'm reading - the politics of nature and re-assembling the social - latour has an extremely interesting and extremely direct and extremely compelling response to the charges of relativism, idealism etc, one which, i must say, i have been screaming at anyone who will listen for decades. we have got to put "non-humans" - other organisms, inanimate objects - back at center stage. there is no us, no social, no human, without them: the dependence is complete, the distinction completely untenable. we live, as you know, in a real world of physical stuff and we are that world in a series of its permutations.
so latour wants to do a sociology or philosophy or politics of human/non-human assemblages, collectivities, juxtapositions, networks. he says that the concept of "the social" as it is deployed in pomo disciplines is just a completely occult agency, a mysterious immaterial force or stuff. replace it in its physical context: replace us in a world of non-humans. restore to us our inhumanity.
ok the development of this perfectly fundamental thought is somewhat labyrinthine, and i won't stroll you through al the permutations. but one thing that just takes your breath away about latour. he is a french intellectual. but he writes extremely clear, lively prose, even at the upper reaches of metaphysical speculation. it's not only his philosophy that's basically pitted against derrida, or gadamer, or whatever: it's the plain-spoken words, the rich attempt to clarify with metaphors, the sudden brutally direct formulaton, even the jokes. latour actually wants you to understand what he's saying, rather than being committed to blowing you away with the genius displayed precisely by profound obscurity.
heidegger and wittgenstein, but it now appears even derrida and foucault and deleuze, were artifacts of the modern era in the sense that they were geniuses comparable to beethoven or van gogh or pollock. the sciences had them too: the figures of infinite creativity and in the case of sci and phil, super-intelligence, intelligence as a super-power. that's why you can't understand what they say; they're on a different evolutionary plain. well one drawback of this amazing persona is that it encourages a kind of preening, a self-cultivation qua genius. giorgio agamben is someone i've read lately who is still inhabiting/impersonating this figure. well i like latour's version of the next step: christ, cut the crap and let's talk about something: you come off thinking what a disarming fellow rather than ohmygod i just almost caught a glimpse of the essence of being. but you do catch a glimpse of the essence of being.
the spill is suddenly politically toxic. it's almost amazing that obama hasn't learned the lessons of katrina: like: ok i'm moving to the gulf for a week, setting up command headquarters in n.o. i'm personally in charge: if bobby jindall or the pres of plaquemines wants something, tell them to call me.
so if you happen to be in lahti, finland next week, you can catch me keynoting the nordic society for aesthetics. the theme is environmental aesthetics, so with the goal of writing some sort of paper, i got hold of environment: an interdisciplinary anthology (yale 2008): the kind of thing you might teach in an environmental studies 100 course, if you were taking an interdisciplinary or partly-humanities approach.
now i'm sick of being a global-warming denialist or whatever; it's boring, and really all i can do either way is wait, and either cook or not. but people are obsessed, as became obvious again when i spoke at u maryland a couple of weeks ago on "the future of urbanism." the architecture school was committed to one thing: reducing per capita fossil fuel consumption. to do that, the best technique - supposedly - is to pile people on top of each other in extremely close proximity: the future is purely urban. any aspect of human relations to the world that does not focus exclusively on carbon emission is a dangerous distraction in these, the last days of time.
sadly, we're never going to hit the point where an apology is due, only slowly slip into some other terminal crisis, as this one slowly dissipates. but anyway, reading the little intro to global warming in environment - it is of course the first theme in the book - reminds one again that "science" in the hands of these people means an incredibly tendentious, screechingly emotive tissue of mistakes.
here's the first paragraph: "If an asteroid hurtling toward earth would, with strong probability, strike this planet in forty years, raise sea levels permanently between six inches to sixteen feet, force up to one quarter of all species into extinction, inaugurate plagues and disease, inundate parts of some nations, drown populated islands whole, render coasts uninhabitable, instensify hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes into record-breaking storms, cause frequent floods and landslides, and kill millions of people, then every government would work furiously to discover how that asteroid might be diverted or destroyed. There is no asteroid....But the rest of the scenario is very possibly true."
ok think about this "if" construction; think about 'very possibly'; think about what this rhetoric is doing. one thing it is not doing is reporting a series of objective facts; it is trying to make you start running around in circles screaming. i particularly enjoy "six inches to sixteen feet," a good representation of the actual quality of the data. one tends to remember the sixteen feet. kill millions? or dozens, to represent the range of estimates in the scientific community..
then there is the usual distinction between climate and weather. (the first thing that we better say about this distinction is that climate consists of weather). they want this because then one cold winter or, say, five smaller-than-average hurricane seasons in a row would have no tendency to show that what they're saying is false. but then virtually every line of the text violates its own stated distinction: it starts counting hurricanes year by year, of course dealing only with segments reflecting an increase. "In Europe, the summer of 2003 was the hottest in 500 years." "In 2000, about 25,000 lives were lost in Venezuela's worst flooding in history." by the author's own standards, no conclusions follow about climate at all, of course.
what happens is you start with: what if it were like this....? then you describe an apocalypse, pointing out that it is possible, that is, that there is some possible world in which it is true. then you enumerate bad things that have actually happened. since of course bad things happen all the time (now, as before), it looks like you are accumulating overwhelming data. but every piece of data is just another fallacy, just there to make you afraid. it is fallacious because the only thing that is not nailed down is the actual causal connection to global warming. at the crucial moment you just declare that it "may" be connected and go on to the next bad thing. the current fashion for connecting climate to national security indicates that this will soon be happening with wars, genocides, etc: they may be connected to climate change. remember your most embarrassing moment? that may have been caused by global warming. that is a true statement and, by the standards of environment: an interdisciplinary anthology or al gore, the distressing story of your most embarrassing moment constitutes scientific evidence that the world is getting warmer.
"Tropical diseases will spread more widely with greater virulence....The dengue virus in South America and Rift Valley fever in Africa and the Middle East have extended their range. Malaria probably will too." right, so to even begin to connect this to climate change, you'd have to sort out all the myriad factors - many of which are not well understood - that affect the spread of disease. there was a time when tuscany and maryland were infested by malaria. but they don't bother to do much of anything except to declare that global warming and the spread of dengue fever may be connected. the mistake in this paragraph is the simple assertion that tropical diseases will spread. measuring conclusions to data and sticking with the basic rhetoric y'all associate with scientists such as al gore and john kerry, you should have said they may spread. if tropical diseases recede, on the other hand, believe me somebody's model would connect that to climate change.
indeed if average precipitation increases, that may well be connected to global warming. if it decreases, that may well be connected. if it increases in some places and decreases in others, as it has throughout the last few bllion years, that may well etc. if deserts spread or contract, glaciers melt or accumulate. ask yourself: what event, data point, etc would convince al gore that his models were grossly exaggerated? no data cannot be fed into a faith this flexible, this committed, this needy. no data can count against it. it's an entirely lovely conception of a thoroughly post-empirical science.
in short, the arguments come far short of any evidence. they are framed and infested by a thousand emotive and rhetorical devices designed to constrain you to agree and to gloss over the breathtaking shortcomings. it's fuckin pathetic. come back to me when you're sincere and not merely manipulative: try to show me, not just bludgeon me into nodding along with an endless stack of random jive.
roger cohen does what they do: just mechanically lobs insults. he doesn't even make them up himself. he calls the tea party "a toddler-tantrum expression of individualism run amok." now first of all i'm just going to say this, and later maybe i'll prove it, that you can be insulted too, roger, and if hurling cheap abuse was an argument, you'd already have been refuted, or would be refuted if you were actually asserting or or arguing for something, and not just choiring out a series of mechanical phrases together with the rest of your demographic. ok. maybe you can't think or actually generate reasons or whatever. but just muttering along with olbermann's writers isn't exactly writing. but it is, we might point out, anti-individualism: a vision of our collective future in which we're all beautifully educated and completely incapable of independent intellection or formulation. at any rate the piece is entirely empty, first because it just re-hashes what everyone else is saying, and second because what everyone's saying makes no sense. so he builds the piece around a contrast between the toilet as a collective technology to cell phones as individual technologies. wait. think that through for a second. and as always when we contrast individualism with whatever these people have in mind, it becomes clear that the correct contrasting term is "coercion." "coercion" also turns out to be the meaning of the term "responsibility" in the pair "freedom and responsibility." cohen and his whole demographic, of course, emphasize "responsibility." this is deeply, deeply ironic, in that coercion is incompatible with responsibility. 'responsibility,' in the hands of these lobotomized weasels, means simply capitulation.
at any rate, these people all say the same thing at the same time in the same way, as they congratulate themselves and one another for their independence, critical use of reason, and so on. if they became aware of who they actually are, they would dangle themselves by the neck from a tree somewhere: they are precisely the opposite of what they believe themselves to be. on the other hand, i suppose that their own incredible unanimity, extending to every shred of their prose and every cell of their personalities, is in keeping with their total repudiation of individualism: they have achieved a kind of mechanical shared consciousness with their fellows simply by chanting the same words together. they really, really want to all believe the same. they form one super-individual, covering the planet like a layer of peat.
that's cool but it's getting repetitive to the tune of billions,. i would suggest destroying all the bodies involved except one. no loss, because the individuals don't exist at all; just leave one person to mutter the collective consciousness off the cue cards all day. if you insist, it could be bill maher.
douthat, as always, is sharp. now, exactly: rigid adherence to principle does not really work in practical politics, and this is precisely what's gotten rand paul in trouble. this is exactly why the libertarian party has essentially gotten no traction in its whole history, despite the fact that it is the repository of fundamental principles of american government.
now on the other hand, you can't quite do without principles to the extent that we usually do, either. so the opposite of a rigid adherence to, say, government non-interference with individual autonomy, or to the equality of all human beings, would be a thoroughly "pragmatic" approach. just do what works! but just like any philosophy prof i'm a ask you what you mean by 'works': what are the standards by which you measure whether it worked: it might easily be a standard of freedom, or of equality, of prosperity, life expectancy, justice, happiness. right of course what is happiness etc?
you can take a "pluralist" approach and seek a balance of multifarious ends, and so on, but you can't stop thinking about ends without renouncing anything we would recognize as politics. if you don't have some ordering of ends, then we might say the results are unintentional. the idea of "legislation" is nonsense without practical syllogisms.
so say you wanted an element of genuine inspiration in a leader; well i say it can't really configure around pragmatism. that's why there's an empty heart of obama: the most you get, really, is "change" or "hope." for what? to what? why? it's not that he would be silent at that point in the conversation, but it's going to blow hard: big words intended to to be taken in contradictory ways by different hearers; expressed with total simulated passion as the american dream, the more perfect union, but with no definite entailments: a restatement of the question.
now at a minimum, i say a sudden outbreak of libertarianism into the main line of political discourse would be most welcome because it challenges the other people to produce their principles. well that could lead to a nice conversation, anyway, - a useful conversation. it's useful for this reason if no other: i say each of the mainstream american left and the mainstream american right is incoherent. a contradiction entails all propositions; you have no idea what these people might do or why. well, they're muddling through. fair enough only stop once every five decades and ask muddling through to where?
but actually if i were advising rand paul i'd basically be telling him what douthat is telling him. but that is also how ron paul got traction: by saying: of course we have some pretty radical ideas. but look it's a question of what kind of congress we're working with, what people are ready for; this is a democracy; we're talking about a gradual adjustment to a somewhat smaller state. let's see how that goes. the pragmatic approach.
let me ask you this: are there any circumstances in which the oil spill would be, roughly, nobody's fault? or is that by definition impossible? what if, you know, they hit a sudden, you know, methane pocket or something that they could not have known was there? or something? or if there was just a bizarre concatenation of extremely unlikely events? what i would say is: you've got to look and see whether anyone was at fault, and if so why and to what extent. but the "it's a fucked-up world" move has to be one of the possibilities. i think rand paul is right, that is, that the whole idea is that we have to hang somebody. we still live for the anthropomorphic explanation: that it has to come back to somebody's greed and evil, who can then be punished; this is just to say that we can't face an amoral material universe. katrina was a beautiful example: it was going to have to turn out to be someone's fault: brownies's, the corps of engineers, the forces of global warming.
now one reason it has to turn out to be someone's fault is that someone has to pay; i mean literally someone's got to pony up the billions. but the impulse is more powerful than that. and working backwards from the disaster, it's going to be extremely easy to see some things that should have been done differently, even if at every moment of not doing things differently, the people involved made sound decisions relative to the information at their disposal, or made the decisions you would have made in their place, etc.
notice i am not saying that no one is at fault. i'm saying that as you do the investigations, that's more or less one of the possibilities. face up. and realize that burning people at the stake will not really expiate their sins or our sins or make the world make moral sense.
i very much like the current phrase "sovereign debt," which appears simply to mean government debt. but it's hard not to hear it as "the debt which exercises complete, legitimate power over each of us." and hard in turn not to see this as a kind of summary of human life. karma is a bitch, baby. anyway, i'm 51 and still owe 40k in student loans.
i'm going to return for a second to the theme of collective consciousness, which emerges as a theme together with statism, or as the argument that what one's state is doing one is oneself doing: that the state is all of us, thinking and acting together as a single agent (this is the essence of the idea of the state). now certainly this is fictional and also practically simulated by coercion, and certainly it is also the representation of some fundamental human urge to escape our loneliness etc. but what i want to focus on now is that it justifies collective responsibility, collective punishment, and collective destruction. it justifies terrorism, because there are no non-combatants in a war, and because the people getting blown up each count only as an infinitesimal slice of a larger being or consciousness. so say for example that "we" went to war in iraq. (obviously you're going to have to ignore the lies of people in power, their individual agency, the coercion at the heart of the funding procedures, the continuous manipulative propaganda about american heroes etc etc. which evidently are all techniques for compromising individual agency.) well then 'we' are collectively responsible for the deaths that ensued. and if they were not justified deaths, or if any of them was not justified, then we are all responsible for a crime and should be punished. so for example if someone, outraged by the war, smuggled a suitcase nuke into fresno and blew that shit to smithereens killing 100,000 random americans, that would be perfectly just. the idea of collective consciousness, for example, would justify putting the entire goy, straight, non-gypsy population of germany to death after world war two. and though almost all the individual german bodies that actively participated in the holocaust are gone, germany and the collective soul of the german people persists, so it is not too late to execute every single german, by which means we would kill at most one thing. that is, the idea of collective consciousness blows crime, punishment, violence, responsibility up to a montrous scale and is at the heart of the wholesale destructions we have visited upon each other since the idea came into vogue in nineteenth-century nationalism and marxism.
the rand paul civil rights thing is kind of amazing. people don't really comprehend libertarianism; so embroiled are they in contradictory ideologies one way or the other that a consistent ideology appears rife with contradictions. (on the other hand, whether it would be better to be governed by a set of consistent principles, rather than a hodgepodge of ad hoc prejudices, is an interesting question.)
on the other hand, this has been a huge and real problem. barry goldwater opposed the civil rights act, on his own account on constitutional and personal freedom grounds. but was it not also a matter of political positioning? the deep south has been republican ever since.
in general, the civil rights movement is, if you ask me, the most serious american-historical challenge to an anti-state type vision. it is a case in which, at least apparently, a blatant systemic transformation toward justice was made under the auspices of the state. much of it was presented as a petition to the state. thisis one reason you don't see a lot of black folks at libertarian conventions or tea party rallies. the answer to the petition came in terms of brown v board, using the national guard to desegregate schools, and so on. and indeed, the transformations of the nation's conscience was in part brought about by a transformation of the law.
but of course not only by a transformation of the law, and it's possible that much of the change would have occurred with the transformation of conscience broght about king and so many others. at any rate, that a store owner should be permitted to exclude black customers seems like an exercise of individual freedom. it is of course also a node or exchange of the systemic oppression.
now the actual history of the state in relation to race for the most part is a nice nightmare. but as in many cases, it's not only a nightmare, and the argument actually is hard on the ground in this case.
[just to strap the repulsive jacob heilbrunn for a second: it is amazing that rand paul is talking about william lloyd garrison, much less saying that he's one of his favorite american historical figures: a beautiful, shocking declaration. one of the greatest american abolitionists, peace activists, feminists: also a christian anti-statist. the stuff about guns is perfectly comprehensible as an analogy to the civil rights case, though of course questionable: so say that in an interpretation of the second amendment, the federal government said that you as a business-owner could not restrict your customers from entering your store with guns? the heilbrunn thing is just stupid abuse, but paul is actually an intellectual who is making sense.]
so here's how to think about the universe. it's a skein, or fabric - better, tangle - if you like, consisting of rough twine tied together in a network. but the arrangement is random rather than cartesian; the underlying structure is not a grid. rather, we have many strings or ultimately a single string tied together in random patterns, forming something like a fabric at a distance, consisting of thousands of knots closer up. each knot is an individual; it has a distinct form and location and physical composition (that is, the [token] portion of material in which it consists is different from that of any other). it consists of absolutely nothing but a set of relations to other portions of the skein: it consists without remainder of string connecting it to other nodes of the skein. different points of view on the skein produce different impressions, so that at a wider angle larger structures emerge: clusters of knots etc. but nevertheless the skein itself does not depend on any point of view, interpretation, description.
we might say that you could pick out indefinitely many structures or introduce various ontological ordering principles for various purposes: taxonomies of knots, identifications of sub-knot elements to show the composition of particular knots etc. but for a given claim to be true, the skein has really to display the structure attributed to it.
then add this: the skein is continually being shaken, deformed, as though one person were holding it on each side and each was emitting a random set of up and down and side to side motions; so knots keep coming undone, tangles emerge and so on. and the whole thing is fraying, disintegrating.
obviously, i am enthusiastic about the idea of having rand paul in the united states senate, and the current libertarian mood/move.
i am kind of sorry to see arlen specter go; i liked his unpredictability and his frankness; one recent example: he was pretty straightforward about his reason for shifting parties; that frankness came back to haunt him in sestak's ad: "I'm switching parties in order to get elected." on the other hand i remember his questioning of anita hill during the clarence thomas hearings: "do you expect us to believe, miss hill, that a man who went to yale law school, an eminent judge etc, would make rude sexual advances or watch pornography?" either remarks like this betrayed a total confusion about the moral power of education and social eminence, or it was a completely absurd defense for specter's own presumed transgressions. at any rate, it betrayed a complete misapprehension of the power of or justification for social status.
well, it's kind of interesting that the supreme court is dominated by catholics and jews. i guess those are legalistic traditions - canon law and the whole idea of torah - whereas even though there's plenty of protestant law and legalism, there is also a suspicion of law within the radical protestant tradition. blah blah blah immigrants' kids go to law school. at least there are no black people or women on the court.
here's a sortof interesting piece of political/cultural commentary by mark lilla. he frames the whole thing in terms of "radical individualism"="the libertarian mob," as against...well, what? obviously the basic contrast of individualism is to collectivism, but it's hard to sit there and squarely endorse that term: there are too many corpses stacked up in its name.
lilla doesn't really define 'individualism': it appears to be a kind of narcisstic self-obsesssion and material acquisitiveness. "It [tea party ideology] fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual
autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing,
not using, political power." "It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do
everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are
conspiring to keep them from doing just that." really "petulant" is not an argument. always in such a discussion, the intellectual ridicule is near the surface: you are so stupid is really all they ever say. we are reason. you are emotion.
of course i personally would associate individualism with an emersonian or kierkegaardian development of independence and conscience. at any rate, the opposition is completely tendentious. lurking in the background of lilla's view is a constant appeal to authority, of scientists and state institutions. homeschooling, for example, is supposed to be an individualistic outrage upon the body politic.
really since lilla refuses to formulate his opposite of individualism, let's call it authoritarianism. in many ways the left of now is just like the left of the thirties or fifties, or 1848: envisioning the state as the agent of collective action.
the problem is that the state cannot be the agent of collective action while it rests on coercion. it's as though i put a gun to your head and then declared what we had decided to do. precisely like that, in fact. so if you have a situation of non-individualism produced by coercion - which is always at the heart of the marxist-leftist vision - you cannot have collective action. not until people are fully autononomous are they actually sharing in the decision-making, do you see? the emergence of actual community is impossible in a condition of large scale coercion, for example telling you what your children must do all day under penalty. if a collective consciousness, a collective decision-making procedure were to arise, it would only actually be collective insofar as each person's particpation was free.